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Jordan Henderson refuses to criticise Saudi Pro League, wouldn’t advise others not to go

Jordan Henderson has refused to criticise the Saudi Pro League and said he would not advise other players against moving to play there.

The 33-year-old midfielder terminated his contract at Al Ettifaq on Thursday, six months after joining from Liverpool and signing a three-year deal with the Saudi side.

Henderson returned to Europe to move to Ajax and, speaking at his unveiling press conference, denied he regretted his six months in Saudi.

“I think a lot of people would like me to sit here and criticise the Saudi league and everything that went along with that but that certainly wasn’t the case,” Henderson said. “It’s not something I’m going to do. I’ve got full respect for the league, for Al Ettifaq, the people over there, who really made me feel welcome. 

“Unfortunately these things sometimes don’t work out, in football and in life in general. I made a decision as soon as I knew this opportunity was there. The decision was this was the best move for me and my family at this time.

“If anyone was offended or feel as though I’ve upset them then that’s on me. I apologise for that, it was never my intention. I just want to look forward and concentrate on playing my best football with Ajax.”

Asked if he considered his move to Saudi a regret, Henderson continued: “Looking back, at the time, it was a big decision I felt was right for me and my family at the time. But things happen, things change quickly. And I had to make another decision. 

“This (Ajax) was too big to turn down for me. If you want to call them regrets or mistakes, you can call them that. But they’re only mistakes if you don’t learn from them. I learned a lot of things in Saudi and I’ve not got a bad word to say about anyone over there. I’ll have friends over there I’ll speak with forever. There were still positives to come out of it. In the end it didn’t turn out the way we both wanted it to but we ended it on great terms. We’ll shake hands and move forward.”

An influx of overseas talent moved to the Saudi Pro League in the summer and The Athletic reported in August that Henderson’s former Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah was the subject of a verbal offer worth up to £150million.

Despite cutting his own stay in the division short, Henderson denied he would advise other players to not make the move to Saudi.

“Definitely not,” he said. “Everyone is different. You’ve got big players who are there who are loving every second of it and staying for a long period of time. You might get others who don’t settle or something happens in their private life and things change quickly.

“But I would definitely not sit here and speak badly of the league or the clubs. That’s just not the case. I’ve got full respect for the opportunity I was given to go there and unfortunately it didn’t work out. That can happen in life and in football.”

Ajax are next in action against RKC Waalwijk on Sunday but with Henderson yet to receive a work permit he is unlikely to be able to make his debut.

(Photo: Ajax)

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