Jordan Henderson may insist his move to Saudi Arabia was not money motivated, but he is now playing to crowds below 1,000 with Al-Ettifaq.
From one of the best atmospheres in world football to attendances in the three-digit mark, the summer brought a wild step down for Henderson.
His recent interview with The Athletic, in which he attempted to explain his decision to join Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq and insisted it wasn’t for the money, was universally criticised.
“I wanted something that would excite me,” was his reason for joining Steven Gerrard’s new club in the Middle East.
But despite the revamp of the Saudi top flight, including major investment from the royal family’s Public Investment Fund, the interest is seemingly not there yet.
In fact, Henderson’s most recent game for Al-Ettifaq – a 3-1 win away to Abha – saw an official attendance of just 976 spectators, according to ESPN.
— Roshn Saudi League (@SPL_EN) September 16, 2023
Henderson started alongside Gini Wijnaldum in Gerrard’s midfield, with ex-Celtic striker Moussa Dembele up front and Demarai Gray coming off the bench.
Despite the high-profile names involved – former Sevilla and PSG midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak started for Abha and ex-Lyon forward Karl Toko Ekambi scored from the bench – the stadium was only 3.9 percent full.
In any his five games for Al-Ettifaq so far, Henderson is yet to play in front of more than 14,000 supporters.
Al-Ettifaq attendance figures
• Al-Nassr (H) – 13,656
• Al Hazem (A) – 1,024
• Al Khaleej (H) – 4,200
• Al Hilal (A) – 13,656
• Damac (H) – 2,281
• Abha (A) – 976
The highest attendance for any of his appearances came at home to Al-Nassr, with 13,930 in the stands for a game involving the Saudi Pro League’s biggest draw, Cristiano Ronaldo.
A close second was the away clash with Al Hilal – which along with Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli is one of four clubs owned by the state – drawing 13,656 fans.
In Henderson’s other two outings there were fewer than 5,000 spectators, with 4,200 in the stands for a home clash with Al Khaleej and 2,281 for the visit of Damac.
Data from Transfermarkt states Al-Ettifaq’s average attendance has only risen slightly from 5,200 to 6,804 this season.
That comes following the appointment of Gerrard as manager and the signings of Henderson, Wijnaldum, Dembele and Gray among others.
Al-Ettifaq are reported to have the seventh-highest average attendance in the Saudi Pro League this season, with Al Hilal, Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli and Al-Nassr unsurprisingly the most visited.
The official capacity of Al-Ettifaq’s Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium is reported as 26,000, meaning the club are filling just over a quarter of the available seats on average.
With the recent setbacks in Liverpool’s redevelopment of the Anfield Road End, the Reds’ two home games this season have seen attendances of 49,699 and 50,109.
That is viewed as a disappointment, as the stadium’s eventual capacity will be around 61,000 – but it pales in comparison to Henderson’s new venture.