Al-Ettifaq Places Gerrard in the Top 5 Highest-Paid Managers Globally
Only three managers earn more than Steven Gerrard in world football.
43-year-old English manager Steven Gerrard has extended his contract with Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia until 2027. TalkSPORT claims that the salaries of Liverpool and England legends will increase by 25% to £15 million per year. The previous agreement for the Briton was set to expire only in 2025. Still, the club management in Dammam decided to strengthen their relationship with a new deal.
"We know where we want to go, and we want Steven to lead us forward. There are no shortcuts to success. Steven's work ethic, leadership qualities, and commitment to the project have shown everyone in the club what it takes to compete at the highest level. Steven has been given the time and resources to continue this journey and create something special," said Al-Ettifaq president Samer Al Misehal, as quoted by The Independent.
The basis for such compliments to the manager could have been the club's good results in the Saudi Pro League, but they still need to be improved. After 19 rounds, the team has only collected 25 points and occupies the eighth position, trailing league leaders Al Hilal by 28 points. Given that Al-Ettifaq had a series of nine winless matches before the winter break, the contract extension on improved terms appears unusual.
The new agreement has helped Gerrard climb to the fourth spot in the world's highest-paid managers ranking. Currently, only Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid (£29.8 million per year), Pep Guardiola at Manchester City (£19.7 million), and Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool (£15.7 million) earn more than the Briton, as stated by Sports Illustrated.
There is no direct cause-and-effect relationship in Gerrard's case. In June 2023, he commented on the Euro 2024 qualifying match between England and North Macedonia (7-0) for Channel 4 and, responding to his reporting partner's question about the possibility of continuing his coaching career in Saudi Arabia, refuted the rumors: "There has been a lot said in the media about it. Much of it is untrue," Fox Sports quoted the former Liverpool and England captain. "I was invited there to consider a potential offer. I looked into it and decided not to accept." Shortly afterward, Gerrard became the favorite among bookmakers for the coaching position at Sheffield Wednesday but ultimately declined that option.
However, at the end of June, Gerrard returned to Saudi Arabia, where all his doubts about the current team, transfers, living conditions, and salary were met with a resounding "yes" by the sheiks. The club was willing to satisfy the coach's wishes to strengthen Al-Ittifaq with top players. Former Liverpool midfielders Jordan Henderson (costing €14 million) and Georginio Wijnaldum (€8 million), as well as Everton winger Demarai Gray (€9.3 million), Brugge defender Jack Hendry (€5 million), and Lyon forward Moussa Dembele (free transfer), joined the team.
As a result, on July 3, the parties shook hands, and Gerrard signed a two-year contract. "The easy decision would have been to stay at Liverpool and wait for a job. But as a family, we decided we wanted something slightly different," ESPN quoted the manager. Steven decided to earn a reasonable sum before landing his dream job at Liverpool. After a disappointing spell with Aston Villa, where he was dismissed just 11 months after his appointment in October 2022, waiting for an offer of that caliber might take a while.
For now, Gerrard's only trophy in his coaching career is the 2020/21 season's championship title with Glasgow Rangers in Scotland. The prospects for winning cups and medals in Saudi Arabia are limited. Six months after leaving Al-Ittifaq, team captain and critical midfielder Henderson departed. TalkSPORT said he lost three-quarters of his Saudi salary, amounting to £692,000, with his move to Ajax in January. Gerrard's assistant, Jan Foster, also left the club at the beginning of January, taking charge of Plymouth. Additionally, the club struggles to increase attendance, averaging 7,854 people per match.
Many clubs in the Saudi Professional League have significant financial resources, but Al-Ettifaq is not among the chosen few. In 2023, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Sports announced that the country's Public Investment Fund (PIF) would take control of four Saudi Professional League clubs — Al Nassr with Cristiano Ronaldo, Al Ittihad with Karim Benzema, Al Ahli with Roberto Firmino, and Al Hilal with Neymar. These teams have almost unlimited financial capabilities, making it challenging for Al-Ettifaq, the second-largest petrochemical company in the kingdom (SABIC), which sponsors Al-Ittifaq, to compete. But after Henderson's departure, it was essential for the club's management to keep the manager to prevent other team leaders from dispersing.
Published by Patrick Jane