The veteran is a surprise inclusion in Southgate’s latest squad, but his international career should be over after swapping Liverpool for Al-Ettifaq
Jordan Henderson’s unforeseen move to Saudi Arabia in July was expected to be the death knell for the 33-year-old’s international career. The political and footballing optics of his controversial, £13 million ($16m) transfer from European giants Liverpool to Steven Gerrard’s middling Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq should have made Gareth Southgate’s selection decision an easy one.
However, six weeks on, Henderson somehow finds himself back among the England camp for fixtures against Ukraine and Scotland in September. Southgate looked like a rabbit in the headlights when quizzed on the call-up in a press conference, but rather than admit that his decision would be scrutinised, he instead launched into a fierce defence of one of his trusted lieutenants.
“My job is to pick a football team,” he sniped. “I don’t think you can pick a football team based on any prejudice about where they might be playing their football. I am a bit lost with some of the questioning. You walk in to talk about a squad for football and we are wading into complex political situations, which I am not really trained to do. We will do the best we can.”
Southgate has done so much for the England national team, but there is little doubt that this is a decision he has gotten badly wrong, and the accompanying furore is an unnecessary distraction.