Steven Gerrard issues statement as Al-Ettifaq end season 48 points behind champions

Steven Gerrard will hope to improve on his first season as Al-Ettifaq head coach (Image: Getty)

Steven Gerrard has reflected on his first season in Saudi Arabia after his Al-Ettifaq side finished a staggering 48 points behind champions Al-Hilal. Liverpool icon Gerrard was one of the high-profile additions to the Pro League last summer.

He was appointed as manager of Al-Ettifaq despite only weeks prior suggesting that he would not take the job after preliminary discussions. Gerrard started with a 2-1 victory over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr but his side endured some inconsistent form throughout the campaign.

Al-Ettifaq finished sixth in the Pro League on 48 points. It was a largely respectable finish given the club are not one of the four teams who were brought under the majority ownership of the Saudi Public Investment Fund 12 months ago.

However, they gained only half the points total of eventual champions Al-Hilal despite still spending big on new signings. Jordan Henderson, Demarai Gray, Gini Wijnaldum and the former Lyon striker Moussa Dembele all joined Al-Ettifaq a year ago, although Henderson infamously moved to Ajax in January.

“Thanks to everyone @ettifaq club for their support this season. Together firm foundations have been built and standards set for the future,” Gerrard wrote on Instagram.

“Now it’s time to relax and reflect. Then reset and go again to build our future one step at a time.”

Despite a wobble in form before Christmas, Gerrard was handed a new contract in January to commit his long-term future to the Saudi club. At the time, he suggested that the team’s form had not been ideal, but that his plans were beginning to come to fruition.

The 43-year-old said in January: “This is very pleasing for myself and my family and feels like recognition for a lot of hard work and commitment.

Steven Gerrard insists ‘firm foundations’ have been built at Al-Ettifaq (Image: Getty)

“We had to put in place new infrastructure, like building a new training ground in phases and building a new stadium. But a lot has been achieved.”

He added: “I understand where we are in the league, but I am very confident we will improve. The [transfer] window is open at the moment and we’re working to try to identify players who could come and support the current group of players, to make us more competitive at the top end of the table.”

Saudi clubs are expected to enjoy another summer of big spending, not bound by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules. A string of Premier League players have already been linked with moves to the Middle East, including Manchester United defender Raphael Varane and Liverpool duo Alisson Becker and Mohamed Salah.

Source: https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1904533/Steven-Gerrard-Al-Ettifaq-Saudi-Arabia