Steven Gerrard performs U-turn and agrees to become Al Ettifaq manager

Former Aston Villa coach said last month that he had turned down chance to take over at Saudi Pro League side

Steven Gerrard was sacked as Aston Villa manager last October after a 3-0 defeat at Fulham. Getty
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Steven Gerrard has agreed to become the manager of Saudi Pro League side Al Ettifaq.

The former Rangers and Aston Villa manager had been linked with the role last month but then stated that he had turned down the opportunity.

Speaking on UK broadcaster Channel 4 before England’s Euro 2024 qualifier against North Macedonia last month, Gerrard admitted he had been over to the Middle East.

“I was invited over there to look at a potential offer, which I did, and have been analysing that over the last couple of days,” he said. “As we stand, right now, I won't be taking that offer up.”

But it was announced on Monday that Gerrard had in fact decided to become the latest high-profile name to make the move to Saudi Arabia.

Al Ettifaq finished seventh in the Saudi Pro League last season, 35 points behind champions Al Ittihad. “Where legends are found. We're thrilled to announce Steven Gerrard is our new head coach,” said the club in a post on Twitter.

The 43-year-old has been out of work since being sacked by Premier League side Aston Villa last October after two wins in 12 games had left the club hovering outside the relegation zone only on goal difference.

On arrival at Villa in November 2021, Gerrard's coaching stock was high after a successful spell at Rangers which had seen the Scottish side win their first league title in 10 years, denying rivals Celtic a tenth championship in a row.

He had been in charge at Villa less than a year during which time they had won 13 out of 40 games, losing 19 and with a win percentage of just 33 per cent.

By his final game in charge, a dismal 3-0 defeat at Fulham, Villa fans were demanding for Gerrard to go. “It's tough. I'm a man, I accept it, I feel their frustrations, I'm frustrated. It was a tough night for me personally,” he said after the match.

“We will see what happens. I'm a fighter, I will never, ever quit anything whether it's football or in life.” Hours later, Villa announced his departure.

Gerrard will be seeing plenty of familiar faces in the Middle East after a period of huge investment by the Saudi Pro League.

Former Premier League players who have made the move this year include Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves, N'Golo Kante, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy, while ex-Wolves and Spurs manager Nuno Espirito Santo is in charge of Al Ittihad.

Ronaldo's club Al Nassr, meanwhile, announced the signing of Inter Milan captain Marcelo Brozovic for €18 million on Monday.

The midfielder has agreed a three-year deal and leaves Inter after playing 330 games for the Serie A club, scoring 31 goals. He has won 87 caps for Croatia, scoring seven times.

“Everyone wanted him. He wanted only us,” Al Nassr said in a tweet announcing Brozovic's arrival.

The 30-year-old's last game for Inter was their Champions League final defeat against Manchester City in June.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 12:19 PM