Who does steven gerrard manage ? Steven Gerrard has returned to management in Saudi Arabia after playing hardball with his new employers. The former Rangers and Aston Villa boss has been announced as the new head coach of Al-Ettifaq – a matter of weeks after suggesting their contract offer wasn’t up to scratch.
Gerrard, sacked by Villa last year, was invited to the Middle East last month and held talks with club officials, but on his return to England insisted: “As we stand right now, I won’t be taking that offer up.”
But after holding further talks with officials of the side who finished seventh in the Saudi Pro League last term, Gerrard has now agreed to take on the role.
Gerrard follows a number of big-name stars in the footballing world to make the move to the Middle-East this summer. Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Ruben Neves, Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly are amongst those to have joined the Saudi Pro League revolution – six months after Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr.
One of Gerrard’s first transfer targets is set to be Philippe Coutinho, with Aston Villa keen to part ways with the Brazilian. It was Gerrard who took the ex-Liverpool man to Villa Park after his dream move to Barcelona turned sour.
An initial loan move was made permanent at major expense, but with Unai Emery happy to part ways with Coutinho – the Spaniard prefers Emi Buendia, John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey in his attacking midfield roles – and few European giants keen, a reunion with Gerrard may well be on the cards.
Gerrard’s decision has been savaged by former Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan, who used his time working on talkSPORT on Monday afternoon to take aim at the Liverpool legend’s decision.
“If you want to make a football decision that is going to take you on a journey that will make you a very successful manager and you back yourself, then you don’t need to go to Dubai or the Middle East or wherever he’s going.
“In this instance, this is not a football decision, he’s not going to advance as a coach, he’s not going to enhance his reputation amongst those eyes that might look at him and go, ‘oh look at what you did in the Saudi league.”
Gerrard’s fledgling coaching career got off to a fantastic start north of the border, guiding Rangers to their first title since 2011 – stopping arch rivals Celtic winning 10 on the spin in the process.
But after leaving the Glasgow giants for Villa, the reality of management came into focus. The former England skipper lasted just 11 months at Villa Park and was sacked in October of last year after winning just two of their 12 games.
He was in turn replaced by Unai Emery who transformed the club’s fortunes to end the season in seventh, securing a return to European football in the process.
Gerrard has been linked with several roles since becoming a free agent but has bided his time ahead of securing his third permanent managerial role. That wait is now over, with the new Saudi Pro League starting in August.
Former Aston Villa Boss Steven Gerrard Agrees To Manage Al-Ettifaq
The former England captain is the latest star name to be lured to the oil-rich kingdom as it embarks on an ever-expanding recruitment drive.
Gerrard, who has managed Scottish club Rangers and Premier League side Aston Villa since retiring as a player, follows another former Liverpool star, Robbie Fowler, who was hired by Al-Qadisiyah last week.
“Here is the source of the legends,” Al-Ettifaq tweeted. “We’re thrilled to announce Steven Gerrard is our new head coach.”
Gerrard hasn’t managed a team since being fired by Villa last season when the club was just one place above the Premier League relegation zone.
It brought an abrupt halt to a coaching career that looked set to soar after Gerrard led Rangers to the Scottish league title in 2021 and broke Celtic’s streak of nine championships on the run.
Before joining Villa, he had been tipped to be a future Liverpool manager and a successor to Jurgen Klopp.
Al-Ettifaq, which plays in the lucrative Saudi Pro League, is yet to sign a major player in an offseason that has seen Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and a number of stars from Europe’s top leagues head to the country to join Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed for Al-Nassr in January.
As a player, Gerrard won many of football’s biggest club trophies, including the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005. He won seven more major cups during a highly-decorated career, but never lifted the Premier League title.
Why Steven Gerrard choosing to manage in Saudi Arabia would show level of ambition
Steven Gerrard looks set to become the next former Premier League talent to journey to the Saudi Pro League.
This week saw the previous Liverpool captain in talks to become the new manager of Al Ettifaq — one of the clubs that fall outside of the historical ‘Big Four’ that now come under the part ownership of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, PIF.
It’s a big decision for Gerrard — not only leaving European football but taking up a job at one of the less-moneyed clubs of Saudi Arabia at a time when players such as Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante are expected to make the pursuit of titles and cups a lot harder for those outside the top four.
Gerrard would not be the only manager with Premier League experience to venture to Saudi Arabia: former Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo led Al Ittihad to the league title this season, finishing five points clear of Al Nassr (of Cristiano Ronaldo fame).
Yet, Al Ettifaq is a difficult proposition for any incoming manager. They are a middleweight in the league at a time when the heavyweights are expected to welcome an influx of playing talent from Europe.
Gerrard’s potential next team finished seventh in 2022-23, 35 points off top spot and with a goal difference of minus eight. The top four in the league are only going to get stronger too; Saudi clubs are thought to be interested in hiring managers with Premier League experience, such as Julen Lopetegui, Marco Silva and even Jose Mourinho.
Which begs the question of Gerrard: why, outside of the obvious financial incentives, is a manager as openly ambitious as him considering a job outside of European football?
Even if he were to find some level of success at Al Ettifaq — a club that has not won silverware at the top level since 1987 — it is hard to envisage a straightforward return to European football in a few years.
It would be a strange decision for a manager who was criticised for viewing Aston Villa as a stepping stone for his ultimate ambition of becoming Liverpool manager. And according to the sports intelligence agency Twenty First Group, the Saudi Pro League is rated as the 58th highest-quality league in the world, taking into account the strength of its average team, which places it below the Scottish Premiership (49th). Is Gerrard considering a move to the Pro League to refine his craft so he might one day return to the Premier League? Or is Al Ettifaq the best job offer available to him now?
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