Jordan Henderson has opened up on his Liverpool exit, detailing the reasons why chose to give up the Liverpool captaincy to sign for Al Ettifaq.
33-year-old Henderson as a shock departure from Anfield this summer, after he accepted an offer to join Steven Gerrard's Al Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League.
Henderson received criticism for both his handling of the move and his choice of destination.
His previous advocacy for inclusivity issues in football has led to a backlash from some quarters, with England's own LGBTQ+ fan group 3 Lions Pride branding the midfielder a 'sell out' for choosing to play in a country where homosexuality is a crime.
In an interview with the YouTube channel BeanymanSports, Henderson has given his reasons for going to Al Ettifaq, claiming he wants to help grow the Saudi Pro League.
"It's an exciting time, the project and something different is the reason why I wanted to come here," he said. "Over the next few years, I'm sure it will grow and I want to be part of that to help it grow.
"I love football so I want to try to help it grow all over the world, I know people in Saudi love football. Hopefully we can continue growing the league over the next few years. Hopefully I can be part of that.
"It's a totally different project, experience, which is why I wanted to come and try something completely different to what I've been used to for the last however many years. It's exciting and I'm just happy to be here and try get started."
Reunion for Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane ❤️
Still strange not seeing them in Red 🔴pic.twitter.com/JVfNspFpM9
Henderson – who is reportedly being paid £350k a week – also insisted the prospect of playing under Liverpool legend Gerrard was a key driver for him.
"Stevie was a big reason why I came, to work with him and play under him," he added. "I think we've had some good training sessions, not many, had one game.
"We need to be ready in the next week or so for the first game - I'm sure we will be, we've had some good training sessions, a good result the other night so hopefully we can start things in the right direction and work together to make the team successful."
Al Ettifaq, who play in the city of Dammam, finished seventh in the Saudi Pro League last season.