Steven Gerrard reveals three key reasons for joining Saudi Pro League side Al Ettifaq

Former Liverpool and England captain announced as manager last week on two-year deal

Steven Gerrard is unveiled as the new manager of Al Ettifaq with club president Khaled Al Dabal. Reuters
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Steven Gerrard has explained his decision to accept the opportunity to manage in Saudi Arabia with Al Ettifaq.

The former Rangers and Aston Villa manager, 43, was last week confirmed as the new head coach of the east coast club on a two-year contract despite initially turning down the role. Ettifaq finished last season’s Saudi Pro League in seventh.

In taking the job, Gerrard became the latest high-profile figure to continue his career in the Saudi top flight.

On Sunday, Ettifaq released Gerrard’s first interview since signing, with the former Liverpool captain saying: "There were a lot of reasons for me wanting to join the club. The club has a lot of good people that represent the club, from the board down.

"When I went over to Saudi, I got a real family feel. They made me feel extremely welcome.

"There's three things I always consider, and in no particular order: It needs to be right for my family first and foremost. We have to be excited and motivated by the challenge; the football project needs to be ambitious. It needs to be for the right reasons in terms of the challenge and the remit.

"Of course, you need to feel secure, that the contract's right. That always comes at the end.

"It was a combination of reasons and I'm extremely excited. I'm happy, I can't wait to start, and I can't wait to meet all the supporters. I can't wait to meet all the players.

"But the people that I have met so far that represent Al Ettifaq have been absolutely outstanding and I think we share a lot of things in common."

Gerrard has been out of work since October, when he was dismissed by Villa after his team won two of their opening 12 2022/23 Premier League matches. He had been in the position for 11 months.

Before that, the ex-England captain spent three years at Rangers, guiding the Glasgow club to the Scottish Premier League title in the 2020/21 season. Rangers went the entire season without losing.

Asked in Sunday’s video for a message to Ettifaq’s fans, Gerrard said: "I think my message to the supporters is that I'm really happy, I'm really excited. I'm a manager that is very ambitious, that likes to work tirelessly to make sure that the team is very competitive.

"I'm looking forward to meeting the supporters – so are my staff. And if we're all united, we're all together and we all stay aligned, I'm sure we can achieve our goals together."

Gerrard began his first training camp with his new players in Croatia on Sunday. Ettifaq will contest the first of five planned friendlies on Wednesday, ending the get-together with a game on July 27 against Pro League rivals Al Ahli.

"The club already has an outstanding culture; it already has fantastic support," Gerrard added. "It has a really important president.

"We're about to obviously change to a new president, but the board are all aligned, they're all ambitious, [are] very good people who give a lot of time and effort into the clubs.

"I want to be part of that culture. I want to bring my own standards to try and help and improve.

"From the playing side I'm really looking forward to building relationships with the people above me, and hopefully, together we can be the support that the team needs to grow and get better and move up the table."

Updated: August 16, 2023, 12:18 PM