(CNN) — Six months after his controversial transfer to Saudi Arabia, footballer Jordan Henderson has announced he is returning to Europe to sign with Ajax.
On Thursday, the England international said he was leaving Saudi Professional League (SPL) club Al-Ettifaq “with immediate effect”, adding: “This is not an easy decision, but I believe it is the best decision for me.” And what’s best for my family.” ,
Ajax, currently fifth in the Dutch Eredivisie, also confirmed the transfer on Thursday, posting photos and video of Henderson’s arrival on the club’s social media accounts.
“I still want to perform at a high level on the pitch and that’s the most important thing. I have to perform and try to help the team succeed,” the 33-year-old said in a video on X. Twitter.
A statement from Al-Ettifaq described the decision to terminate Henderson’s contract as “amicable”, while club president Samir Al Misehal said it was “without any delay or further distraction, in the general interest of the club as well”. A quick decision has been taken. For Jordan”.
According to ESPN, Henderson’s deal with Al-Ettifaq was for three years.
SPL acting director general Saad Allaziz said, “Jordan is a good boy and it’s a shame that things didn’t work out for him, but I will be the first to admit that he has been given every possible support and shown respect. Has gone.” ,
Henderson’s move from Liverpool to Al-Ettifaq came under scrutiny given the midfielder’s previous support for LGBTQ rights. Henderson has publicly supported the Rainbow Laces campaign supported by Stonewall, and has spoken of the need to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with people who have experienced exclusion.
But upon visiting Saudi Arabia – where gay sexual activity is a crime according to Human Rights Watch – Henderson faced criticism from LGBTQ campaign groups and the wider football community.
Cope Outs, a group of LGBTQ Liverpool fans, declared themselves “horrified and concerned” by the move, while 3LionsPride, a similar group of English fans, declared themselves “disappointed”.
In an interview with The Athletic published last year, Henderson said he believed his move to Saudi Arabia was “a positive thing”, and explained that he understood the frustrations of the LGBTQ community.
“I can understand the anger. I get it,” he said. “All I can say about it is I’m sorry you feel that way. It was never my intention to hurt anyone.”
Henderson won the Champions League and Premier League during his 12 seasons at Liverpool before joining Al-Ettifaq last year, joining a number of high-profile players in Saudi Arabia including Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar.
During the six months he played for Al Ettifaq, managed by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, he played 17 league games. On Thursday the club announced that it had extended Gerrard’s contract until 2027.
CNN’s Amy Woodyatt and David Close contributed to this report.