Steven Gerrard has revealed why he was desperate to sign former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson at Al Ettifaq last summer.
Henderson made the switch to the Saudi Pro League in the most recent transfer window, linking up with his former teammate and Liverpool icon Gerrard who is currently managing Al Ettifaq.
The 33-year-old's move was met with widespread criticism after the midfielder had previously been an outspoken ally of the LGBTQ+ community. However, by moving to a country where homosexuality is illegal, he was justifiably lambasted by the media and football supporters for his hypocrisy.
Despite Henderson's Al Ettifaq move having been clearly inspired by the financial benefits of moving to Saudi Arabia, the former Liverpool No. 14 has suggested that his lack of guaranteed playing time at Anfield forced him out of the club.
Gerrard, who has also received criticism for his decision to manage Al Ettifaq, took advantage of Henderson's uncertain situation on Merseyside, swooping in to capture the Englishman's signature.
In an interview with the Saudi Pro League, Gerrard explained that Henderson's qualities on and off the pitch made him an ideal candidate to join him in Asia.
He stated: "I think when you're the coach, the manager, you want players going into games that can be an extended version of the staff. People, who can really help on-pitch coaching; where the team needs to be in terms of distances, to make on-field decisions.
"Myself and Jordan, we have that trust. We played together and he's a fantastic player still, a fantastic human being. For us, to execute that signing was key and very important and I think a lot of the other signings we made came on the back of Jordan agreeing to come here.
"I think he wanted to still play, I think that was the key. He was at Liverpool at the time, he's had a fantastic career, he's achieved everything at that club, he's been a fantastic servant to Liverpool Football Club."
Gerrard continued: "But I think in the previous months, maybe him not being a regular starter in the team, when you get to that age, I've been there myself under Brendan Rodgers when, you're the captain, you play all the games, then all of a sudden you're on the bench or you're not getting as many minutes as you'd like, and that's when you analyse and think about a different challenge.
"And when we knew it was a possibility, I wanted to be aggressive and wanted that to be my first signing, because for me it was a no-brainer.
"Still a fantastic player, he's a leader, an on-pitch coach. His standards on how he lives his daily life on and off the pitch is good for our young players to see, watch and learn. Jordan understands the size of the project, that it's not a quick fix. He wants to be part of the journey and building it with us, but he was a very important signing at a key time."
Henderson may be getting more regular football in the Saudi Pro League, but he has had to endure playing in front of incredibly small crowds with Al Ettifaq - often lower than 1,000 spectators.
Despite a promising start for Henderson, Al Ettifaq are now seventh in the Saudi Pro League and have won just one of their last five matches.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are second in the Premier League table and flying with their new-look midfield.