Jordan Henderson spoke out in the British press for the first time following his move to Al Ettifaq this summer.
The 33-year-old former Liverpool captain’s switch to the Saudi Pro League back in July was, you won’t need reminding, fraught with controversy.
Leaving Liverpool in pre-season, Henderson left the club he joined in 2011 without a proper goodbye, while Jurgen Klopp and the recruitment team at Anfield spent much of the summer scrambling to find replacements after both his and Fabinho’s unexpected departures.
Additionally, as a prominent ally for the LGBTQ+ community during his time as the Reds’ skipper, Henderson faced a backlash for a perceived betrayal of his previous work – which included wearing rainbow laces and captain’s armband, as well as speaking up on inclusivity issues in football.
READ MORE: Jordan Henderson – Liverpool legend with a tainted legacy
Addressing the controversy around his move for the first time, Henderson sat down with the Athletic’s Adam Crafton and David Ornstein for a wide-ranging interview – selected highlights from which can be read here.
In summary, Henderson insisted he didn’t feel loved at Liverpool, denied that he has gone to Al Ettifaq for the money and admitted he ‘understands the anger’ over his move Saudi Arabia (a country where homosexuality is illegal), but claimed his presence in Saudi Arabia is a ‘positive thing’.
While the idea of the England midfielder sitting down to face the press in a no holds barred exchange might have sounded like an admirable thing to do, the content of his answers (or lack thereof) has left many fans frustrated.
Here’s how X (better known as Twitter) reacted to that interview.
I don’t think that Henderson interview could’ve been any worse.
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) September 5, 2023
Is Jordan Henderson the first high profile person in history where him just saying “I did it all for the money” would have actually gone down better than what he did say
— Martin (@MarxtinM) September 5, 2023
I think we might have been too quick to judge Jordan Henderson.
It was easy to consider him a duplicitous hypocrite after his move to Saudi Arabia, but reading his recent interview with The Athletic, it’s evident that he’s actually just a credulous imbecile. pic.twitter.com/HARn2rVhEQ
— Alfie | HITC Sevens (@HITCSevens) September 5, 2023
Jordan Henderson had enjoyed comfortable PR for years: largely a result of his advocacy for LGBT+ issues and level-headed appearance. If you entirely trash that persona to advocate a regime that persecutes minorities, it really would be better to just shut up and enjoy the money. https://t.co/JArR9sjCSR
— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) September 5, 2023
Henderson is asking to be respected for his ‘values’ rather for his actions, a bit like Fifa asking players to wear armbands for causes it couldn’t care less about. Saying “I’m a good person” (mostly to yourself) doesn’t make you one.
— Philippe Auclair (@PhilippeAuclair) September 5, 2023
Jordan Henderson is a coward, he could have opened up and spoke to a community that he claimed to be an ally of weeks ago when he moved. Instead he waited until the bad press died down, then when he did speak he spouted phrases and answers straight from the sportswashing handbook
— Danny Corcoran (@calcio_danny) September 5, 2023
This is such a good interview. It is painful to read because his answers aren’t very good. Jordan Henderson has sold out his morals for money, it is as simple as that. https://t.co/QT2hGHllhe
— Joey D’Urso (@josephmdurso) September 5, 2023
Nice of Jordan Henderson to blame everyone but himself for his Liverpool departure.
Hasn’t come off great in that interview at all.
— – (@JoshLFC1909) September 5, 2023
Jordan Henderson has massively undermined people who genuinely believe in and campaign for the causes he briefly borrowed. Much better to be quiet now. Or admit it’s just his job, his career, which is fine. But to be still preaching about “respect” and educating others is 🤮
— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) September 5, 2023
No acceptance by Henderson of his role in sportswashing, trying to disguise the disgusting Saudi human rights record. This sounds more like an attempt to rebuild his “brand”, sorry isn’t good enough @JHenderson, actions speak louder than words. https://t.co/JGOI5fY55f
— Kop Outs! ️️️ (@LFC_LGBT) September 5, 2023
The interview marks the latest chapter in the sad redefining of Henderson’s status from Liverpool legend and social justice champion to just another pawn in the sportswashing machine.
Following his £12m transfer, England LGBTQ+ fan group 3 Lions Pride vowed to remove their banner of the former Sunderland star, branding him a ‘sell out’, while Thomas Hitzlsperger – the former Everton and Aston Villa midfielder who came out in 2013 – tweeted questioning whether Henderson’s activism was ever genuine.