Jordan Henderson, Karim Benzema and Other Stars Who Have Struggled in Saudi Pro League

Jordan Henderson, Karim Benzema and Other Stars Who Have Struggled in Saudi Pro League

Martin Moses
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
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Jordan Henderson logo
AFC Ajax logoMEngland logo
Karim Benzema logo
Al-Ittihad Club logoFFrance logo
Saudi Professional League logo
KSA Professional League
Saudi Arabia
Cristiano Ronaldo logo
C. Ronaldo
Al Nassr FC logoFPortugal logo
Roberto Firmino logo
R. Firmino
Al-Ahli SFC logoFBrazil logo
Jota logo
Al-Ittihad Club logoFPortugal logo
  • The fanfare that greeted the Saudi Pro League League has receded in recent times
  • Jordan Henderson and Karim Benzema are among the players reportedly unhappy
  • Neymar Jr only featured for Al-Hilal briefly before suffering a season-ending injury

The pomp and colour that met the Saudi Pro League, when Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr approximately one year ago, seems to have faded away.

The Portuguese star initiated a mass exodus of some of the top players in the European leagues, who quickly sealed mouthwatering deals with the top-flight clubs in the Middle East.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Al-Nassr, Karim Benzema, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Neymar
Cristiano Ronaldo during his unveiling as a new Al-Nassr player on January 3, 2023. Photo by Yasser Bakhsh.
Source: Getty Images

Ronaldo has done well for himself, finishing as the top scorer globally in all competitions for the year 2023.

His strike partner, Sadio Mane, and Al-Hilal's Aleksandr Mitrovic have also settled in well but the same can't be said of other players who are now reportedly angling for moves back to Europe, barely six months after moving East.

Sports Brief looks at some of the players who are yet to get going in Saudi Arabia.

Players who are struggling in the SPL

1. Jordan Henderson: Al-Ettifaq

The England international dumped Liverpool and signed a lucrative deal of €700,000 weekly. He started well under Steven Gerrard, bagging four assists in his first six games.

However, the former Reds captain has suffered a lull in form, which has coincided with his side's winless streak. Gerrard's side last won in September and haven't gotten maximum points in their last 13 games. Sky Sports has reported that the 33-year-old wants out.

2. Karim Benzema: Al-Ittihad

The French striker was expected to light up the Saudi Pro League, given that he was the only other Ballon d'Or winner alongside Ronaldo.

Admittedly, his nine goals and five assists aren't too bad of a return, but he hasn't been able to help his side from slumping to seventh place on the table. The former Real Madrid striker has been christened 'Ben Hazima', which translates to 'son of defeat' by the fans, as reported by One Football.

3. Roberto Firmino: Al-Ahli

The Brazilian was supposed to form a dream forward line for his new club alongside the pacy Allan Saint-Maximin and Manchester City treble winner, Riyad Mahrez.

He only has three league goals since joining, with Talk Sport reporting that Fulham are among the clubs that could be interested in bringing him back to England.

4. Jota: Al-Ittihad

Al-Ittihad's plan when they signed the Portuguese forward left a lot to be desired after they failed to register him for top flight action despite making him their most expensive signing of all time. The lack of regular game time in Saudi could force the 24-year-old to move elsewhere.

Sports Mole had previously intimated at a reunion with Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham Hotspur, but with Chelsea flop, Timo Werner headed to North London, Joat might have to look for other options.


The jury is still out on Neymar, whose lack of game time for Al-Hilal hasn't been his own doing.

The Brazilian forward picked up an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury while on international duty and is set to be sidelined until next season.

For a league that offered so much promise, riches and opportunities for growth, what changed for the European-based stars?

What's keeping Gerrard from getting sacked

Sports Brief also previously reported on the one factor keeping Gerrard from being sacked at Al-Ettifaq, where he was brought in as a manager in only July last year.

There was a lot of optimism surrounding the Englishman's appointment as he brought some big names to the club, including his ex-teammate, Jordan Henderson.

Moussa Dembele, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Demarai Gray also joined the Saudi Arabian giants, who were expected to be highly competitive in the top flight league.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)