So there you have it. The sand isn’t always finer on the other side of the beach! Jordan Henderson would rather play for one of the worst Ajax teams in Dutch Football History for a salary which amounts to about ten fewer a week compared with the zillions he has left behind in the desert.
OK, he jetted off to Ai-Ettifaq not only with the promise of a fistfull of dollars, but with a suitcase packed with good intentions. Spread the word and some liberalism about improving the Saudi culture and tolerance as it pertains to LGBTQ and women’s rights. Of course, this mission could all be achieved from the safety of one of the many alcoholic serving bars in Bahrain where Henderson and his family had decided to set up camp, or not as it’s now turned out.
But if nothing else he has at least belatedly discovered that he’s been sold a pup, albeit a rather very financially endowed one, and to be fair he owned his mistake. At this moment in time, Al-Ettifaq couldn’t win a raffle as their winless run would make a gambling addict reach for the bottle. Of course, in the real footballing world, the only extension on offer to a manager of such a calamitous run of results would be the extension of a hand to guide him to the trap door. Steven Gerrard, it seems, is set to receive a pay rise.
The shock of such largesse in the wake of such failure is, as the great man said himself, due reward for all of his hard work and commitment. I kid you not. I am sure that if Gerrard’s win record went from a derisory thirty per cent to a respectable forty he would probably, in this context, be given his oil well! Anyway, you cannot blame Gerrard anymore than you can have a dig at Henderson for being willing to accept hundreds of thousands of pounds a week to play against the footballing equivalent of the Red Lion Pub, in front of ten men and their dog, on pitches harder than Millwall, and all in thirty-degree heat!
For his wife and family, there is only so many malls you can visit. Only so many Jane Birkin's, Patek Phillipe's and Christian Louboutins you can stuff into the boot of your top-of-the-range AMG before you begin to yearn for the familiar. Henderson will not be the first to turn his back on the Saudi project, and his change of heart might lead to a mini exodus of some of those players who too have found trouble in paradise. The Saudi of course will not be dissuaded.
Their determination to erect a laundry the size of the Burj Khalifa, and to throw as much money as it will require to establish a league which will rival those in Europe will ensure a steady stream of takers. I just hope that these players hold their hands up and admit that it’s all about the money honey instead of indulging in transparent altruistic kidology.
Henderson wanted a return to the Premier League, no doubt with one eye on the England team and the upcoming Euros until, thankfully, his savvy accountant pointed out that if he did so he could expect a tax bill which would equal the GDP of a small African country. Alas, there were no takers anyway. And so to Ajax it is then and good luck to him. He will at least be reacquainted with a very familiar pattern of winless runs!