Lineker: Henderson ‘should not be playing for England’ after ‘semi-retirement’ to Saudi Arabia

Jason Soutar
Former England striker and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker at Wimbledon.
Former England striker and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker at Wimbledon.

Gary Lineker thinks Jordan Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia signals a “semi-retirement”, meaning he should no longer play for England.

Henderson controversially joined Al-Ettifaq from Liverpool in the summer transfer window and Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate has stood by the midfielder, including him in his most recent squad.

The 33-year-old started and finished Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Ukraine but failed to impress, as did all of his teammates, in fairness.

Interestingly, former England striker Lineker has used his own career experiences when discussing Henderson’s situation.

Lineker says when he made a move purely for money he “withdrew from international football” as he viewed the switch as a “semi-retirement”, which is similar to the former Liverpool captain’s £12million transfer to the Middle East.

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“I am a huge admirer of Jordan Henderson,” the 62-year-old told The Rest Is Football podcast. “He has been an unbelievable footballer.

“I did a similar thing, I moved abroad at the very end of my career to earn a few bob and get a different experience.

“I think then, that is semi-retirement, I don’t think you should play international football. As soon as I made that decision, I withdrew from international football to take the problem away from the manager at the time.

“I am not judging Jordan Henderson, that is up to him and there are huge superstars who have done the same. If you are (Cristiano) Ronaldo or (Lionel) Messi, that is slightly different and you leave things up to them.

“Personally, I don’t think a player – if they are going to make a move for a big pay day at the end of their career – I don’t think they should still be playing for their country, unless there were extreme circumstances or we had a dearth of talent and we absolutely do not in the midfield area.”

Lineker commented on Henderson’s interview with The Athletic and noted that he would not have begrudged the player if he simply admitted to joining Al-Ettifaq for the money.

“Just say it [he went for the money], it’s up to you,” he added. “You’re protecting your family, your future, that’s fine, but don’t try to pretend otherwise.”

Lineker also touched on Southgate, who ‘doesn’t help himself’ at times with his in-game management.

Henderson played the full 90 minutes of the Ukraine draw while James Maddison and Jude Bellingham were withdrawn as Southgate’s side chased a winning goal, which baffled the former England striker.

“I also don’t think it helped him staying on for the full 90 minutes,” he continued. “I don’t think Gareth did him too many favours there.

“It kind of exacerbated the problem.

“He already had James Maddison playing wide left which is clearly not his position because he wanted to get Henderson in the side in midfield and then to take Maddison off and then to take Bellingham off who scored two late goals in big games for Real Madrid in past 90 minutes, I don’t think sometimes Gareth helps himself.”

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