Steven Gerrard has revealed Cristiano Ronaldo’s role in his move to Saudi Arabia.
The Liverpool legend, who took over as Etifa coach in July, has been out of work since being sacked by Aston Villa in October 2022. The 43-year-old initially turned down an offer from the Saudi Professional League after initial talks, but things took a U-turn when two Championship clubs, Leeds United and Leicester City, ultimately fell through.
Ronaldo made his own move to the Saudi Professional League in January 2023 and signed with Al Nasr after his early release from Manchester United. The transfer will pave the way for a number of high-profile stars including Neymar, Karim Benzema and Liverpool legend Sadio Mane to follow in his footsteps and complete a move to the Gulf state last summer.
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Gerrard admits he has been following the Saudi Professional League from afar following Ronaldo’s move, with the Portuguese’s move planting the seeds in his own mind that would lead to him taking over at Al-Altifaq seven months later Explore your own Middle East opportunities before.
“The arrival of what we call the ‘goat’, Cristiano (Ronaldo), who comes in January is obviously a huge signing,” he said. “He still has a lot of football to offer.
“So, for six months from now, I’ve been following Cristiano Ronaldo in the league, watching some games and some highlights. I think from that moment on, leagues around the world became It became a very hot topic for everyone. After Cristiano’s arrival, more big-name players, talented players and technical staff joined the league.
“It was at a time when I was getting out of the game and looking for my next opportunity, so I was obsessed with watching from afar and when my agent brought several opportunities around the Bay Area at the time, I was obsessed with exploring them.
“The offer and opportunity from Ettifaq is the most exciting for me because I have signed for a club whose board are very enthusiastic. They understand the situation the club is in, they know it is something that needs to be built and it will take time.
“That’s why I’m very interested in analyzing this problem because in my job you need time. Especially when a club is seventh in the league and many points behind the top four.
“This is not an easy problem to solve; it’s not something you can solve in a week, a month or six months. It’s a building project on the pitch and that’s obviously the priority but there needs to be changes around it as well A lot of things to give the first team the support they need.”
For the record, Al-Attifaq are currently seventh in the Saudi Professional League table and were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Ronaldo’s Al Nasr last month, with Gerrard having scored in his first 15 games in charge. 7 wins. However, his team has won just one of their last seven games.
Just weeks after taking over at Al-Ettifaq, Gerrard turned to his former club Liverpool, bringing in former team-mate and successor captain Jordan Henderson for a fee of £12 million. Former Reds star Gini Wijnaldum, who also joined the club in September, has struggled at PSG since leaving Anfield in 2021 and was loaned to Roma.
The midfield duo are both 33 and their best days are inevitably behind them, having been key members of Jurgen Klopp’s side winning the Premier League and Champions League.
Gerrard has revealed why he is so keen to bring Henderson and Wijnaldum to Etifa as he strengthens his squad.
“I think when you’re a coach, a head coach, you want the players to be an extended version of the staff when they go into the game,” he told the Saudi Professional League. “Guys who can really help on the pitch; teams need to make on-field decisions based on distance.
“Me and Jordan (Henderson) we have this trust. We play together and he’s still a great player, a great person. It’s key and very important for us to execute this signing, I think a lot of the other players we signed were made with Jordan agreeing to be here.
“I think he still wanted to keep playing and I think that’s the key. He was at Liverpool, he had a great career, he achieved everything at the club and he was a great servant to Liverpool Football Club.”
“But I think over the last few months maybe he hasn’t been a regular starter in the team and when you get to that age, myself being under Brendan Rodgers, when you’re captain you play all the games. game and then all of a sudden you’re on the bench or you don’t get as much time as you wanted and then you analyze and think about a different challenge.
“When we knew it was a possibility I wanted to be more aggressive and hopefully this was my first signing because for me it was a no-brainer.
“He continues to be a great player, he’s a leader, a coach on the court. His standard of daily life on and off the court is great for our young players to see, watch and learn from. Jordan understands the size of this program “This is not a quick fix. He wants to be part of that journey and build it with us, but he’s a very important signing at a crucial time. ”
He continued: “Gini (Wijnaldum) has not played as much as he would have liked to have recently. He has been injured, broken his leg, and the past few experiences have not brought him the joy of football, So he wants to be able to play normally, he wants to smile again, he wants to feel like he’s an important part of the team and we can give him that stage and that platform.
“He has a lot of similarities to Jordan in terms of leadership and professionalism. He’s a winner and different to Jordan stylistically but they complement each other very well and I’ve seen that firsthand as a Liverpool fan over the years.
“We’re looking for that combination, we’re looking for that leadership, we’re looking for them to be key in terms of their performance and contribution on the pitch.
“Bringing in players like Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Moussa Dembélé and Jack Hendry, it’s important that they are in the right role. The right people will also support us and Gives us a good core in the locker room.”