How Liverpool's ex-players have been getting on in Saudi Arabia

It's been six months since the Saudi Pro League launched their campaign to pillage the top stars of European football.

From the established world-beaters of Neymar Jr and Karim Benzema, to the some of the most promising footballing prospects like Gabri Veiga - players moved in their droves to the sunny shores of Saudi Arabia, enticed by mammoth contracts that all but guaranteed generational wealth.

Among those who moved were a handful of players who had donned the famous Liverpool shirt - with the majority of these names (excluding Jonjo Shelvey) being part of the famous Reds side to finally bring home a Premier League title in 2020.

Some of these former stars had already departed Anfield, seeking pastures new in years prior, only for their big moves away to prove ill-fated.

However, a few made the decision to make the direct switch from Merseyside to the Middle East last summer, starting a new chapter of their careers in a league receiving unprecedented investment.

Half a season since their departures, let's take a look at all the former Reds players that are plying their trade in Saudi Arabia, and see how they're getting on.

Jordan Henderson, Al-Ettifaq

© Proshots - Jordan Henderson

Liverpool's former captain may have won everything there was to win while at the club, but it's safe to say he didn't go out on the best note.

Having been one of the leading anti-discriminatory campaigners in British sport, seen as an ally to LGBTQ+ community, he was lambasted for seemingly compromising his values by making a big-money move to Saudi Arabia in the summer - a country notorious for its human rights abuses.

His reputation took a further hit after a 'tell-all' interview with The Athletic went down like a cup of cold sick, where he insisted that it was the 'project' that attracted him to Al-Ettifaq, refusing to acknowledge money as a factor.

Regardless of his motives, the move hasn't gone to plan for the Englishman - far from it.

Wearing the armband for his new side, Ettifaq have gone two months without a win and sit eight points above the relegation zone in the Saudi Pro League.

Things have been so dire that Henderson is now desperate for a Premier League return, something that would cost him his mammoth salary and a reported £7m in taxes. However, Ettifaq are insistent that the Englishman is not for sale.

A dismal career choice.

Roberto Firmino, Al-Ahli

Roberto Firmino, ProShots

Departing Liverpool at the end of his contract (with his reputation and adoration from the fans in tact, may I add), Roberto Firmino made the switch the Saudi giants Al-Ahli, joining a side that would go on to include the likes of Eduoard Mendy, Allan Saint-Maximin and Riyad Mahrez.

However, similar to Henderson, things haven't gone well for the Brazilian.

Despite enjoying a dream debut for the club, bagging a hat-trick against Al-Hazeem, he's failed to get on the scoresheet once since then despite appearing in further 18 games.

He's also pushing for a move away in January, with a return the Premier League again potentially on the cards. Fulham and Sheffield United are said to be interested, but only if the striker is willing to take a massive pay-cut.

Fabinho, Al-Ittihad

© Proshots - Fabinho

Another Brazilian Red making the Saudi switch, Fabinho's departure was one of the best pieces of business Liverpool completed during the summer transfer window - selling their 'hoover' on for £40m, a sizeable fee given his stark decline the season prior.

Following the trend seen so far, Saudi Arabia hasn't provided the career rejuvenation Fabinho may have hoped for.

Despite enjoying regular game-time, Al-Ittihad sit seventh in the league - one place above Henderson's lumbering Al-Ettifaq.

This is particularly poor as Ittihad are one of the four big Saudi teams that are funded by the bottomless pits of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund - and given their league position, it'll come as no surprise to hear that they are the worst-performing side out of the quartet.

Sadio Mane, Al-Nassr

© Proshots - Sadio Mane

Finally, someone's having a good time.

Sadio Mane informed Liverpool of his intention to leave after the end of the 2021/22 season, joining Bayern Munich after a decorated career at Anfield.

As we know, that Bayern move became yet another Liverpool case study of how the grass isn't always greener on the other side - and one season later, Mane was on the move again.

Joining up with Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr, he's enjoyed a relatively productive campaign in Saudi Arabia thus far, contributing eight goals and four assists in 18 appearances.

His side are also in the title fight with Nassr sitting second in the league - albeit seven points off an Aleksandar Mitrovic-powered Al-Hilal in first.

Gini Wijnaldum, Al-Ettifaq

© Proshots - Gini Wijnaldum

And back to reality we go.

Gini Wijnaldum has not found the heights he would have hoped for after his Liverpool departure in 2021. His headline move to PSG fell flat, before a loan to Jose Mourinho's Roma quickly became plagued by injury.

Instead of fighting to regain his position as one of Europe's top midfielders, Wijnaldum - somewhat understandably - chose to cash in his chips by making a money move to Saudi Arabia, joining Henderson at Al-Ettifaq.

He's played the full 90 minutes in almost every game, showing that dependable characteristic that made him such an unsung hero at Anfield - but the Ettifaq experiment just hasn't been working out.

Two months without a win speaks for itself.

Steven Gerrard, Al-Ettifaq

© Proshots - Steven Gerrard

We end on the dictionary definition of 'Liverpool great'. As a player, that is.

Steven Gerrard took over Al-Ettifaq in the summer in a move that many tipped to be career suicide in a managerial sense. After a pretty torrid run at Aston Villa highlighted that he wasn't ready to manage at the top level, it was pivotal that wherever he went next, he did a decent job.

And despite recruiting a handful of former Premier League names on top of those that previously resided on Merseyside, it's been a pretty embarrassing showing for Stevie G.

After going undefeated with Rangers and ending Celtic's decade of dominance, many anticipated an Anfield return for Gerrard, this time on the touchline.

Now, the prospect of Gerrard attempting to fill the shoes of Jurgen Klopp doesn't so much strike excitement into Reds fans as it does fear.

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