Son-Heung-min, Emerson, then Hojbjerg…the ‘Tottenham search’ picks up pace

The interest in Tottenham Hotspur players in Saudi professional soccer continues. After Son Heung-min and Emerson Royale, now it’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

Tottenham Hotspur have shown interest in signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Saudi Arabia’s Al Etihad, according to English outlet Tribal Football.

“Hojbjerg has caught the eye of manager Steven Gerrard and is seen as a possible replacement for Jordan Henderson,” the outlet said. Henderson left for Ajax last week and Tottenham have contacted the Red Devils about signing him,” the report said.

“Hojbjerg has struggled for first-team football this season and has been linked with Serie A and La Liga clubs. However, a hefty salary in Saudi Arabia could be attractive. A consistent run in the Saudi professional league could also help the Danish national team at UEFA Euro 2024 in the summer.”

Tottenham have been attracting interest from the Saudi Premier League since last year. Starting with rumors that Son Heung-min would receive a big-money offer from Al Etihad, the Emirates Royal recently received a €25 million offer from Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nasr.

Al Etihad recently re-signed Gerrard and sent Henderson to Ajax at the same time.

“The club has reached an agreement with Henderson. “The club has reached an agreement with Henderson, who will move to Amsterdam (Ajax’s hometown). Henderson has played for Al Etihad Park for the past six months and has 81 caps for the England national team and recently agreed to terminate his contract with the Saudi Arabian club,” the club announced. Henderson will play for Ajax for two and a half years until June 30, 2026, and will wear the number 6 shirt.

“We wanted an experienced midfielder with leadership qualities. Partly due to injuries in the squad, we were looking for a player who could step in immediately and Henderson is that type of player,” said Ajax head coach Johan van der Hoeve. “His arrival represents a big step forward for our squad. A soccer player of this caliber, both on and off the field, is important for many of our younger players.”

“I am delighted that Henderson is here. I think the fact that he is an Ajax player from today will be very good for the club.”

Henderson rose through Sunderland’s youth ranks, making his first-team debut in 2008. His top-flight performances for Sunderland in the 2009-10 season caught the eye of Fabio Capello, then in charge of the England national team, and he made his international debut against France.

It wasn’t until he joined Liverpool in 2011 that he really made a name for himself. The Reds paid €18 million ($26.2 billion) for Henderson, who wore the No. 14 shirt for 12 years before leaving the club last year.

His time with the Reds came to an end last summer. After scoring 33 goals and providing 61 assists in 492 appearances for the Reds, Henderson headed to Al Etihad in Saudi Arabia for a new challenge. He was reunited with his former teammate Gerrard and became a key midfield player, but after just 19 games and six months with the club, he mutually terminated his contract and opted for a move to Ajax.

The main reason for Henderson’s decision to leave Saudi Arabia after just half a year is believed to be financial.

When he moved to Al Etihad, Henderson’s salary was significantly increased, earning him a weekly wage of £700,000 (approximately $1.163 billion). That translates to a whopping £36.4 million a year, a fourfold increase from his Liverpool days.

However, Henderson was soon to complain about his life in Saudi Arabia. “Contrary to promises, the Saudis are only paying Henderson half of his agreed weekly salary of £350,000 ($580 million),” according to soccer publication TeamTalk, signaling a falling out with the club.

Furthermore, Henderson was unhappy with his life in Saudi Arabia. He was also reportedly frustrated by the lack of crowds at stadiums, increasing the likelihood of a return to Europe.

Recently, global sports outlet The Athletic reported that “Henderson is close to leaving Saudi Arabia for Ajax. Henderson and Al Etihad have terminated the three-year contract Henderson signed when he joined the club last summer, leaving him free to leave on a free transfer.” “After finishing third in the league last season, their lowest finish in 14 years, Ajax have been in even worse shape this season and will look to turn things around by bringing in the veteran Henderson,” said the report.

And now, with Ajax officially announcing the signing of Henderson at the club level, Henderson will once again be able to continue his soccer career in Europe.

Al Etihad are eyeing Hojbjerg to fill Henderson’s shoes.

Hojbjerg is a Danish midfielder who grew up in Bayern Munich and has played for a number of clubs, including Augsburg and Southampton. In 2020, he joined Tottenham from Southampton and has been a regular starter ever since.

He has scored 10 goals and provided 16 assists in 148 appearances for Tottenham, and while he’s not a subtle or technical player, his work rate, tireless stamina, and bold personality that doesn’t shy away from physical confrontation have helped him become a key contributor to the midfield battle. His strong character has led to him being touted as one of the favorites to become Spurs’ next captain.

However, this season has seen a significant drop in his profile. Enzi Postecoglou, who took over after winning the treble with Scottish giants Celtic, has prioritized the likes of Yves Bissouma, Oliver Skip, and Pape Sarr over Hojbjerg.

A consummate first-team player who played 3,894 minutes in 44 official games, including 35 in the Premier League, in the 2022-2023 season, Hojbjerg was linked with moves to Atletico Madrid and Fulham in the summer transfer window shortly after Postecoglou’s arrival. He remained at Spurs and has made 22 official appearances, including 20 in the league, for 919 minutes.

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