Saudi Arabia attracting marquee players to their league is not a surprise anymore. In fact, they’ve supplemented those player additions by also attracting big-name managers like Jorge Jesus. The recent appointment of Steven Gerrard was still surprising though, as he is a manager still working his way up the ranks and could have made his mark in Europe. So, who does Steven Gerrard manage in Saudi Pro League?
What team does Steven Gerrard manage?
Steven Gerrard recently agreed to become the manager of Al Ettifaq, the Saudi Pro League who finished 7th in the league last summer.
He took over from Patrice Carteron as the full-time manager, with Antonio Cazorla’s short spell sandwiched between them.
As a team, Al Ettifaq have had a fairly successful history. Based in the region of Dammam in Saudi Arabia, they are owned by the Ministry of Sports themselves.
They are on the list of clubs that the Saudi government have patronised with their money, allowing them to attract elite players and managers at exorbitant cost.
Consequently, Jordan Henderson’s wages of £700k/week have made him turn to Al Ettifaq as well.
Al Ettifaq have won the Saudi Pro League two times, including winning it once while going unbeaten the whole season, the first Saudi team to do so in 1982-83.
They then fell on hard times, even getting relegated to the second division. However, they got promoted to the Pro League after winning the second division in 2015-16 and haven’t looked back since.
Gerrard will be hoping to improve upon the 7th-place finish last season. However, with increased quality across the league, he will need a lot more reinforcements than just Jordan Henderson.
Al Ettifaq squad
Unlike their rivals like Al Hilal and Al Nassr, who have already strengthened themselves by securing European royalty, Al Ettifaq are in the starting stages of their project.
Their current squad is mostly made up of Saudi Arabian players, with some lesser-known players like Sweden’s Robin Quaison and Brazil’s Vitinho adding the stardust.
They have Amin Younes, the once highly-rated German midfielder, in their ranks but he is yet to be registered.
Jordan Henderson will instantly become the most talented player in the squad when he joins.
They need to strengthen across the board if they are to survive in the Pro League next season.
It will be an uphill task for Gerrard, whose reputation has also taken a hit after the inauspicious spell at Aston Villa. Unai Emery’s performance with the same squad has further hit his reputation.
Henderson is a start, but giving him a £700k/week contract could lead to a slippery slope as they will need to match, or even exceed that amount whenever they start negotiations with another player of the same calibre or better.
Of course, it is looking like money is no obstacle for state-rolled Saudi clubs and that must have been a factor in Gerrard choosing to join Al Ettifaq.
However, in an increasingly competitive league, he has his work cut out for him if he wants to avoid getting a second consecutive failure on his managerial profile.