Steven Gerrard names dream signing after Jordan Henderson 'mistake'

Steven Gerrard during an Al Ettifaq press conference.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Elie Hokayem/Saudi Pro League via Getty Images)

Jordan Henderson’s move to Al-Ettifaq might not have worked out as planned, but that hasn’t stopped Steven Gerrard from eyeing up more high-profile signings.

The former Liverpool captain completed a controversial £12m move to Saudi Arabia summer, but cancelled his lucrative contract after just six months in order to return to Europe and join Ajax on a free transfer.

While Henderson inevitably defended his switch to the Gulf State at the time as he linked up with Reds legend Gerrard, he later conceded the move had been a mistake.

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“I now realise that football runs through my blood,' he told Dutch outlet Parool in March. “The Saudi league is developing but it doesn’t suit me, I made a mistake going there. I am happy here at the Ajax project.”

While Henderson might have considered his move a mistake, his former Liverpool team-mate Gini Wijnaldum fared better at Al-Ettifaq and remains contracted to the Saudi club after succeeding the England international as Gerrard’s captain.

Meanwhile Demarai Gray, Moussa Dembele and Karl Toko Ekambi also remain in their ranks, though Seko Fofana has returned to Al-Nassr after being signed on loan as Henderson’s replacement.

But Gerrard is dreaming of bringing an even more high-profile signing to Al-Ettifaq. The Liverpool legend wants to sign Lionel Messi.

"It's a dream for me to have Messi at Al Ettifaq,” he recently admitted to MBC Masr 2. “He is an incredible player and would be a great asset for the club. I know it's difficult for him to move to Saudi Arabia, but there's nothing wrong with dreaming."

Messi, who is currently representing Argentina at Copa America, las spurned Saudi advances, which would have seen him reignite his on-field rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo, in favour of joining David Beckham’s Inter Miami on a free transfer in July 2023.

The 37-year-old has returned an impressive 25 goals and 16 assists from 29 appearances for the MLS club to date, and has been reunited with Reds hero Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba after playing with the iconic trio at Barcelona.

However, with Messi under contract until the end of the 2025 season, Gerrard’s dream is set to be left unfulfilled. The Argentine has already confirmed his remaining career plans, with a move to Saudi Arabia not on his radar, as he acknowledged retirement is closing in.

"As of today, I think it's going to be my last club," he told ESPN Argentina last month. "I'm not ready to leave football either.

"I've done this all of my life; I love playing ball. I enjoy the practices and the day-to-day, the games. Yeah, there's a bit of fear that it's all ending. It's always there. It was a difficult step leaving Europe to come here [Miami].

"The fact we won the World Cup helped, it helped a lot, to see things in another way. But I try not to think about it. I try to enjoy it. I do that more now because I'm aware that there's not a lot of time left. So I have a good time with the club, being lucky having good teammates and friends at my side.

"I enjoy my time with the national team, where I also have good friends, too, and a lot. I enjoy those small details that I know I'll miss when I stop playing."