Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson completed his move to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq on Thursday, becoming the latest big-name player to be lured to the Gulf state.

The England midfielder, who posted a farewell message on Wednesday, has ended a 12-year stay at Anfield, during which he won every major trophy.

“We can confirm @JHenderson has completed a transfer to Al-Ettifaq,” Liverpool said on their social media channels.

Al-Ettifaq posted: “A leader. A warrior. We’re simply thrilled to have him.”

The 33-year-old, who played 492 matches for Liverpool, scoring 33 goals, has finalised a deal with reported wages of up to £700,000-a-week.

Liverpool are due to receive an initial £12 million ($15.5 million) from the Saudi club.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to his departing skipper.

“I know it was a really, really tough decision for Hendo and I was around or with him all the way,”

“It’s sad, absolutely strange, because he is the only captain I had here at Liverpool, but I think it is exciting for him as well.

“We will miss him, without a shadow of a doubt, that’s clear — as a man and as a player.”

He said.

Henderson said his goodbyes to the club’s fans on Wednesday.

“It’s hard to put these last 12 years into words and it’s even harder to say goodbye,”

“I will always be a Red. Until the day I die.

“Thank you for everything. You’ll never walk alone.”

He said in an Instagram post.

Henderson joined Liverpool from Sunderland in 2011 and succeeded Steven Gerrard as skipper at Anfield in 2015.

He led the club to their first English league title for 30 years in 2020, a year after winning the Champions League.

The England international will be reunited in Saudi Arabia with Gerrard, who is Al-Ettifaq coach.

France striker Karim Benzema left Real Madrid to join Al-Ittihad, following in the footsteps of his former Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Al-Nassr.

Other Premier League players who have moved to Saudi Arabia include Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and another former Liverpool team-mate of Henderson’s Roberto Firmino.

– Rights issues –

Henderson’s move has attracted criticism due to his long-time support of LGBT+ issues.

Pride in Football, a network of LGBT+ fan groups, said in a statement: “When you see someone who has been an ally so publicly transfer to a club in a country where LGBT+ people are attacked and imprisoned, it is disappointing.

“Good luck in Saudi Arabia Jordan, but you have lost the respect of so many people who valued you and trusted you.”

Former Aston Villa and Stuttgart midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out as gay in 2014, criticised Henderson on Twitter, which is being rebranded as ‘X’.

“Fair play to him, he can play wherever he wants to play,”

“Curious to know though how the new brand JH will look like.

“The old one is dead! I did believe for a while that his support for the community would be genuine. Silly me…”

He said.

Saudi Arabia’s lavish spending on sport is often criticised as “sportswashing” — an attempt to shift the focus from its record on human rights.

The conservative monarchy executed 81 people in a single day last year, outlaws homosexuality and triggered international condemnation when journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Source: AFP

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