England boss Gareth Southgate has revealed Jordan Henderson asked about his international future before moving to Saudi Arabia.
The former Liverpool star left Anfield this summer in a controversial move to Saudi Arabia, reuniting with Steven Gerrard at Al Ettifaq.
It has led to furore from LGBTQ+ communities after Henderson’s long affiliations with the groups with laws against homosexuality in the Gulf State.
As well as questions being levelled at the 33-year-old over his core beliefs, there are also eyebrows raised over his international future.
A move to Saudi Arabia has undoubtedly affected his chances of being called up to the England squad.
But Three Lions boss Southgate has cleared up whether Henderson could be waving goodbye to his international career or not – as well as speaking out on his moral choices.
Southgate was in the talkSPORT studio on Friday morning, speaking to Jim White and Stuart Pearce over a range of topics.
On Henderson, he said: “I spoke to him in the summer, the question he wanted to know was ‘if I move here, are you going to automatically rule me out?’
“We would be stupid to do that. Why would we rule anyone out based on where they are playing? We have got to see how they are playing.
“We have an idea of what that league will look like but we won’t know until we actually start to see the games.
Southgate defended Henderson and insisted that he is still in his England plans.
“If you asked me three months ago what that league would look like, I’d have a very different idea to what it is looking like as more and more players decide to go there.
“Big-name players but not so many that are in the prime of their careers but not players past their sell-by date.
“I think that whole project is fascinating for where it is going to head and what that might look like over the next few years.
“But Henderson won’t be playing in the Premier League. He won’t play in the Champions League, which is the easiest assessment for the level he is playing at.”
Former midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out as homosexual in 2014, criticised Henderson for turning his back on the community but Southgate refused to condemn the Englishman.
He added: “It’s not for me to judge any individual whether they’re in football or in any other industry.
“I don’t think he’s changing his view on what he believes in. So now we’re in a really complex world where, what are we saying, nobody should go to Newcastle? Should nobody work for companies that the Saudis own in London or should nobody buy oil from the Saudis?
“I think it’s very complicated, I completely understand the argument of, you know, you’ve supported the LGBTQ community and I can understand why they would have a really strong view on it.
“I think it’s so difficult to say, you know, is Henderson saying he doesn’t support that community anymore? Well no, he isn’t, but of course people are going to say his actions are the reverse of that.”
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Gareth Southgate, manager of the England National Football Team, has revealed that Liverpool captain and England international Jordan Henderson has asked him about the future of the national side, even prior to his involvement in a controversial transfer with Saudi Arabia. Southgate refused to judge Henderson over his choice, stressing that it is a decision for the individual to make and in this particular case, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account.
The controversy has arisen due to the political issues surrounding Saudi Arabia. Liverpool have recently started up a partnership with the country and Henderson has been a part of the process, bolstering the relationship by taking part in a transfer with the Saudi-backed club, Al-Hilal. The move has been perceived by a few as not being in keeping with Henderson’s role as England captain and Southgate’s values.
However, Southgate has been very understanding of Henderson’s decision and has stressed that it is a decision for the player to make. Speaking to the media, Southgate said: “Jordan is someone who always asks you what the future of the England team is and what we need to do as a country going forward. So, for me, it doesn’t matter who you are playing for – it matters who you are.”
This is not the first time Southgate has given Henderson his full backing; the duo has had a very close relationship since Henderson was made England captain in 2018. Southgate’s backing of Henderson shows the depth of their relationship and how highly Southgate regards Henderson as an individual.
All in all, it is clear that Southgate fully backs Henderson’s decision and will not be judging him on it. While some may disagree with the transfer, Southgate’s message of support is an important one and shows his unwavering faith in the England captain.