Jordan Henderson's move to Saudi Arabia is a "massive step back" for LGBT+ equality in football.

That is the view of Paul Amann, who founded the Liverpool-backed fan group Kop Outs in 2016 to provide a voice for LGBT+ fans.

After a hugely successful 12-year spell that has seen him captain Liverpool to both Premier League and Champions League glory, Henderson joined Saudi Pro League side Al Ettifaq this week to play for Reds legend Steven Gerrard.

Henderson is rumoured to be earning up to £700,000 a week in the Gulf state, where it is illegal to be homosexual and LGBT+ rights are not recognised by the government.

Having been a strong supporter of LGBT+ equality while playing in the Premier League, including being a big advocate for the rainbow laces campaign, Henderson's move has been criticised by Amann, who feels the 33-year-old midfielder's relocation to Saudi Arabia will tarnish his legacy as the latest Liverpool favourite to make the transfer.

"It's a massive step back," Amann told Stats Perform. "Not least when you look at the manager who he's moving to play [under], Steven Gerrard.

"You'd like to think that it was just one or two isolated incidents. Sadly you've got Robbie Fowler taking up a managerial post other there, [Roberto] Firmino going to play [there], probably Fabinho as well as Henderson. It's not a good look.

"I'd like to think that the protests bringing to the fore human rights issues, which are the base of our complaint against why people shouldn't go there and take part in sportswashing, will make people more aware of the risks and dangers of going to support that sportswashing operation.

"Fowler, Gerrard, Hendo. They've known working class issues as people born and brought up in the north, they know why we hold the values they do. For them to run off, chase after money, it's pretty shameful."

Amann is particularly disappointed in Gerrard, who signed a two-year contract to coach Al Ettifaq in early July.

"Yes, I've lost a lot of respect for Gerrard as a person," Amann explained. "His playing legacy is secured, same as Hendo, but his personal reputation and their personal legacy – I wouldn't go out of my way to meet them as people, because they've lost a lot of stature by what they've chosen to do.

"Steven Gerrard played at LA Galaxy, alongside Robbie Rogers – another out, gay footballer. If Stevie is prepared to dump a former team-mate and the principles that they stood and lived by so readily to move to Saudi and entice other team-mates to come and play for him… it's a very weird set-up."

Amann is confident that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will, privately, be disappointed in Henderson's decision.

He said: "Jurgen has always struck me as someone who is more than skin deep on these issues, he's invested in the values we espouse as a city and as a club.

"I'd really like to think that he's thinking 'Jordan, just give your head a wobble, you don't need to be going to a place like that'."

Despite recent events, Amann is hopeful that the criticism received by the likes of Henderson will put off players and managers from making the move, much like Fulham head coach Marco Silva, who reportedly turned down a two-year deal worth £40million to join Al Hilal.

"Fortunately, there's proof that not everyone can be bought," Amann stated. "Silva has turned around and said 'No' at least twice, and that's a bit of a beacon of hope that there are more people out there with integrity, who will stand by their principles and won't think the only thing that's important is money.

"We've got to remember the vast majority of people in this world are decent, they stand by their principles and shame on those that don't."

Jordan Henderson has "sided with the oppressor" and tarnished his Liverpool legacy by joining Steven Gerrard in Saudi Arabia.

That is according to Paul Amann, the founder of Kop Outs, a Liverpool-backed fan group that was formed in 2016 to provide a voice for LGBT+ supporters.

Henderson ended his 12-year association with Liverpool this week as he joined Al Ettifaq, now coached by Reds great Gerrard, in the Saudi Pro League.

Reports have claimed Henderson is set to earn as much as £700,000 per week in the Gulf state. The Saudi regime has been denounced by many organisations and governments for violating human rights within the country.

Homosexuality is illegal, and LGBT+ rights are not recognised by the Saudi government.

Henderson was a huge proponent of the Premier League's rainbow laces campaign, and has been the face of campaigns promoting LGBT+ awareness.

But Amann has been left unimpressed by the 33-year-old.

"As a player he brought us everything," Amann told Stats Perform.

"Every trophy we could have hoped for and ever imagined. He captained us to all that.

"For him to be leaving, effectively slinking out of the back door, to go off to Saudi and chase money, after he'd professed to being such an ally, is really, really disappointing and has left lots of Kop Outs members – and even the wider Liverpool fanbase – wondering: Who was the real Jordan Henderson?

"Twelve years at Liverpool and he appeared to embody the values of the city and the club. He would speak out against the abuse of women, speak out for the ability of women to play the game and take part in wider society.

"He'd speak out for things like the food bank programme, the NHS, and for us most importantly, LGBT+ rights. Yet he's going to a country where much of that would not be allowed."

For Amann, there is no doubt Henderson has severely dented his legacy at Anfield.

"As a player, his legacy is going to live long. No doubt about that. He's won everything," he said.

"As a person, he’s rubbished his own legacy, tarnished his own image by choosing to side with the people who oppress rather than continue the battle against such oppression. He could have gone anywhere in the world if he'd wanted to.

"He had the opportunity to take up positions in this country I'm sure – he could have carried on playing at Liverpool, he would have been given an absolute hero's send-off, which he's denied himself, and he could have been celebrated and lauded until the end of time for Liverpool fans as one of the greatest captains of all time – at Liverpool or indeed anywhere.

"Instead, he's decided to side with the oppressor, slink off through the back door of Anfield, make sure there wasn’t any proper goodbye, and he's gone off to a regime that’s against all the values of Liverpool."

Asked if he had one message for Henderson, Amann said: "Don't ever presume to show allyship unless you genuinely mean it, and what you've done, is proven that your allyship is just pretence."

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is “not too concerned” for now about Saudi Arabia’s ascendancy in football as he reasoned it takes time to become a dominant force.

Al Hilal submitted a world-record £259million offer for Paris St Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, who has 12 months left on his current deal and been given permission to speak to the Saudi club.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have already joined the country’s Pro League while Liverpool have agreed a deal with Al-Ettifaq – managed by Steven Gerrard – to sell their captain Jordan Henderson.

“Something new is obviously happening,” Masters told BBC Sport. “The Saudi Pro League have stated they want to be a top 10 league by 2030.

“They are investing in players and managers to try to raise the profile of the league and clubs.

“It has taken us 30 years to get to the position that we have in terms of profile, competitiveness and the revenue streams that we have.

“I wouldn’t be too concerned at the moment but, obviously, Saudi Arabian clubs have as much right to purchase players as any other league does.

“In the end, the Premier League is a £6billion-a-year operation in terms of revenue and that money is spent reinvested into the pitch. All good competitions have to have revenue streams to back them up.”

Michail Antonio, who almost quit Premier League side West Ham in January to join either Everton or Wolves, is a target for the lucrative Saudi Pro League.
West Ham will be keen to cash in on the 33-year-old Jamaican international, whose contract expires at the end of the 2023/24 campaign, with a fee of £10m being touted.

Antonio, who failed to find the back of the net for the Reggae Boyz during this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, would earn significantly more than his reported £85,000-a-week salary with the Hammers.

Facing the twilight years of his career, although very much part of Jamaica’s plans for the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals under head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, the London-born forward could strike it rich in the Saudi Pro League.

Steven Gerrard, the former Aston Villa and Rangers head coach, has taken over the helm at Al Ettifaq in Dammam. Last week he tempted England midfielder Jordan Henderson to the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium, but now urgently requires a top notch striker before the new season kicks off on 14 August.

It appears to be a two-horse race for Gerrard to sign either Antonio or AC Milan’s Belgium forward Divock Origi, a former Liverpool star.

West Ham would find losing Antonio a big blow, as he is their leading top-flight scorer since 1992, having bagged 61 Premier League goals since joining the club eight years ago.

Antonio notched 14 goals across 48 games in all competitions last term, with half-a-dozen scored during West Ham’s Europa Conference League triumph.

With West Ham eager to build on lifting their first European trophy since 1965, head coach David Moyes has been seeking long-term striking reinforcements should the reliable Antonio make a move. Chelsea’s Armando Broja and Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri are his shortlist.

Antonio, who has scored three times for Jamaica since making his debut in 2021, has been the preferred starter for Moyes as he has outshone team-mates Danny Ings and Gianluca Scamacca.

A lucrative move to the Saudi Pro League would keep Antonio on his toes, as some of the world’s leading players are being lured by money-making contracts.


John Barnes is unconvinced the influx of star talents into the Saudi Pro League will necessarily grow Saudi Arabian football on the world stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo's mid-season arrival at Al-Nassr after the Qatar 2022 World Cup marked the start of a dramatic influx of major players joining clubs in Saudi Arabia's top league.

Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante and Roberto Firmino are among those who have made the move to the Saudi Pro League, where lucrative contracts have tempted several high-profile players.

Liverpool legend Barnes is not sure the competition's aggressive recruitment will improve their position, pointing to the past failures of the Chinese Super League and Saudi Arabia's own strong international record.

"Football has always been big all over the world, since the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s," he told Stats Perform. "Now, because of the media attention you're looking at what's going on in Saudi Arabia.

"10 years ago, people went to China, and now they're going to Saudi Arabia. But once again, like America, just getting some retired players, or players who want to go for the money to go there may not be as good.

"It's more to make the statement of being able to attract superstar players there. That's not necessarily going to grow the league and Saudi Arabia has been doing well internationally anyway.

"They qualified for the World Cup, they were the only team to beat Argentina. Once again, that's very similar to what goes on in America.

"If ex-players or players coming towards the careers want to make a lot of money, they do that. That doesn't necessarily impact the local football."

Fellow former Liverpool player Steven Gerrard is another who has made the move to the Saudi Pro League, to manage Al-Ettifaq, while Jordan Henderson is also expected to join him there.

Henderson's reported move has led to a mixed reception on Merseyside, but Gary McAllister – another former Liverpool player – believes Gerrard should be admired for stepping out of his comfort zone.

"I think Steven was close [to] a couple of jobs in the UK, and they didn't quite land for him," he added. "There was an opportunity, and the club obviously wanted him strongly.

"He's made the decision to go and have a go. I think that's something that you've got to admire. He is going to go there, and it's going to be different, it's a new adventure for him.

"But he's back in the game, and that's what he wanted to do. He wanted to get back in the game. There weren't the avenues here or across Europe. He's made the decision, and he's gone for it."

McAllister believes Saudi Arabia will continue to push and grow its sporting portfolio, but acknowledges there is a long way to go for their football system to catch up with Europe.

"Over the past 10 years, Saudi has gone big and has been able to persuade Formula One to go there," he added. "All the big heavyweight championship bouts have been brought there.

"Obviously, what's happened recently with [LIV] golf, they want to be involved in world sport. I don't think it's going to go away, I think they'll continue to try and invest in all sports right across the board.

"[But] there's a long way to go for other countries to try and take away the power of some of the great clubs that have existed for a long time.

"The game is new in Saudi, so it'll take a long time before they can actually match what happens across Europe and in South America, and even in MLS."

Liverpool’s new £60million signing Dominik Szoboszlai has taken the number eight shirt previously worn with such distinction by Steven Gerrard as the former captain is one of his inspirations.

The 22-year-old has signed a five-year contract – subject to a work permit – after a move from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig was wrapped up in a couple of days following the Reds triggering his release clause on Friday, hours before its expiration.

Szoboszlai will wear the shirt most recently vacated by Naby Keita, who was also signed from Leipzig, after his contract expired – but it is the most famous number eight to whom the midfielder looks up to.

“Of course it’s a great number, a lot of great players had this number and also I have a tattoo from Steven Gerrard, what he said (the quote is ‘Talent is a divine blessing, but without incredible will and humility, it is worth nothing’) so it was also a reason why,” he told the club’s website.

“When I was a child, to be honest I didn’t watch that much football but of course when it was Champions League or a big game, I was watching Liverpool, the big teams and also the big players – and he was one of the biggest.

“The last three or four days went really long; it was not that easy. But at the end I’m here, I’m happy and I can’t wait to get started.”

The Hungary international is the second player to arrive as part of a summer midfield rebuild following the signing of 24-year-old World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton for £35m.

He was viewed by Liverpool as a more viable option than former target Mason Mount, in whom they were interested with 12 months remaining on his contract but not at the valuation Chelsea put on him, due to his comparative value, age, versatility and potential and the relative clarity of the deal due to the release clause.

The deal was done so quickly because of the player’s keenness to move to Anfield and link up with Jurgen Klopp, of whom he has been a long-time admirer.


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“I was really happy (on hearing of Liverpool’s interest) but I stayed calm because I didn’t want to be too happy (too) early.

“As I said, I think in 2020, (Klopp is) one of the best coaches in the world. How he acts next to the pitch, it is like he plays with the guys. I like that really a lot.

“And also what he has achieved with this club is also really impressive, so I am looking forward to working with him.”

The respect is mutual as Klopp believes Szoboszlai can play a big part in the club’s future.

“We already have a little knowledge of Dominik as an opponent because we had a couple of really tough games against Red Bull Salzburg when he was a player there and I think everyone who saw those fixtures will have realised that even at that stage he was a really interesting prospect,” said the Reds boss.

“I’m pretty sure he was still a teenager at that time and since then he has made some big strides: moving to Leipzig, doing really, really well in the Bundesliga, playing for the Hungary national team and then becoming captain of his national team at an incredibly young age.

“These are proper positives and this is even before we even think about his qualities as a footballer.

“I will not say too much about them at this stage except they are definitely the kind which will hopefully bring a lot of enjoyment and also help us to get results.

“From the clubs he has been at, the leagues he has played in and the family he is part of, it is very clear that he has already had an outstanding football education, so our responsibility now is to continue this education with him as part of the Liverpool family.

“Everything about this is good news. This is a signing for our present and also for our future and the work that has gone into it could not be more appreciated.”

Steven Gerrard was introduced as the new manager of Rangers, on this day in 2018.

Gerrard would not take up the post until June 1 as he saw out the season with Liverpool’s academy, but said it was a “no-brainer” to take up his first role in management with the Glasgow giants.

The former England midfielder replaced Graeme Murty, who had been sacked three days earlier in the wake of a 5-0 loss to reigning Scottish champions Celtic.

Murty had stepped into the role on an interim basis after Pedro Caixinha’s exit the previous October, agreeing a deal to the end of the season in December.

Gerrard’s task was clear – to bring Rangers back to the level required to reclaim the Scottish crown that Celtic had just clinched for a seventh-consecutive season.

Gerrard’s former Liverpool team-mate Gary McAllister joined as his assistant, while Michael Beale followed from Liverpool’s academy to be part of the backroom staff.

Over the next three-and-a-half years, Gerrard went on to succeed in many of the goals he started with.

In his first season, he guided Rangers into the group stage of the Europa League for the first time in seven years and delivered a first Old Firm victory in six years, although Celtic would claim an eighth-straight league title regardless.

There was further improvement in the second campaign as they reached the last 16 of the Europa League and recorded a first win at Parkhead in eight years, but beating Celtic to the title would need to wait until the third season – one which began behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

When it came, Gerrard’s league-winning season was superb. Gers finished the league campaign unbeaten, winning three Old Firm derbies. They amassed 102 points and conceded only 13 goals.

It would be Gerrard’s last full season in charge as Aston Villa came calling the following November, luring him away at a time when his side were top of the table again.

Gerrard could not replicate his success in the Premier League and was sacked early in his second campaign after less than a year in charge, but his time at Ibrox is still remembered fondly in one half of Glasgow.

Sunday saw two more Premier League bosses dismissed from their roles.

Graham Potter's sacking by Chelsea followed on from Leicester City cutting ties with Brendan Rodgers.

That pair of dismissals took the total count of managerial departures for the season to 13 in England's top tier. Twelve of those have been sackings.

According to Opta, it is the most managerial sackings in a Premier League season by three.

The previous high mark of 10 (set in the 2013-14 season and equalled in 2017-18) was matched last season.

Yet this campaign has been even more extreme. Here, Stats Perform assesses the 13 managers to have departed.


Scott Parker - Bournemouth (August 30)

Just four league games had passed when Bournemouth became the first club to blink, sacking Parker on the back of a humiliating 9-0 defeat to Liverpool. Parker went on to join Club Brugge in Belgium, but lasted less than three months, winning just two of 12 matches. His replacement at Bournemouth, Gary O'Neil, has the Cherries in 16th, far from down and out.

Thomas Tuchel - Chelsea (September 7)

Arguably the biggest shock sacking of the season came early on, when Tuchel was shown the door by Chelsea's new owners. Not long over a year on from leading the Blues to Champions League success, Tuchel was out of work. He is now back in a job, having succeeded Julian Nagelsmann at Bayern Munich in March.

Graham Potter - Brighton and Hove Albion to Chelsea (September 8)

Potter will feature again in this list, of course, but he does count as two of the 13 departures on Opta's list, given he left Brighton to fill the Chelsea vacancy. The Seagulls had enjoyed a brilliant start to the season and Potter had earned his shot at a big club. It would not, of course, go according to plan.

Bruno Lage - Wolves (October 2)

A full month had not passed by the time a third coach was given the boot. Lage had a decent first season at Wolves, but their form had tailed off towards the back end of the 2021-22 campaign, going winless in seven games. That poor form carried into this term, and having won just one of their first eight league games, Wolves decided to make a change.

Steven Gerrard - Aston Villa (October 20)

Gerrard made a bright start at Villa in 2021, and had been given a large transfer budget across two windows, but the former Rangers boss was struggling to make matters click, either with his team or the fanbase. Villa made the call to end the project before the World Cup, and moved efficiently to bring in Unai Emery, who has got them well clear of any danger. Since his first game in charge, only Arsenal (13) and Manchester City (10) have more Premier League wins than Villa.

Ralph Hasenhuttl - Southampton (November 7)

Hasenhuttl had provided Southampton with fresh life when he was appointed in 2018, but since reaching a pinnacle of topping the table in November of the 2020-21 season, it had been a constant struggle. Saints managed to scrape 40 points last season but were firmly in the relegation scrap when they decided time was up for the Austrian. His replacement, however, did not fare well.

Frank Lampard - Everton (January 23)

That glut of changes prior to the World Cup break was followed by the halting of Lampard's Everton tenure in late January. Results had been terrible, with Lampard managing just three wins all season - a tally already matched by his successor Sean Dyche. However, the nature of dismissing a manager so late in the transfer window left Everton with little time to reinforce their squad, and they are still firmly in the mire. Losses to Wolves, Brighton, Southampton and West Ham marked the end of Lampard's time at Goodison Park.


Jess Marsch - Leeds United (February 6)

After one relegation candidate blinked, so did another. Marsch was ditched by Leeds following a 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest, with the Whites - like Everton - once again faced with a scrap for their lives. Marsch, like Lampard on Merseyside, had managed to garner enough spirit and resolve to keep Leeds in the division last season, but the American was not an entirely popular figure among Leeds' fanbase, and whatever system he was trying to implement was clearly not working.

Nathan Jones - Southampton (February 12)

To put it frankly, Jones' time at St Mary's Stadium was downright bizarre. Brought in from Luton Town, Jones clearly had no lack of self-belief, but he lost his first four league games at the helm. Southampton appeared to be clicking into gear under Jones when they beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup, Manchester City in the EFL Cup and then Everton in the league, yet the Weslhman – who was not shy at reeling off his strengths despite the lack of results – received his marching orders following the EFL Cup semi-final loss to Newcastle United and a 3-0 top-flight defeat to Brentford, with Saints bottom of the pile, where they remain.

Patrick Vieira - Crystal Palace (March 17)

A run of 13 games in all competitions without a win led to Vieira getting the boot midway through March. Palace lost 4-1 to league leaders Arsenal under the interim charge of Paddy McCarthy, and turned to former, supposedly retired, boss Roy Hodgson to try and push them away from danger. Hodgson made a good start, with the Eagles coming from behind to beat Leicester 2-1 on Saturday.

Antonio Conte - Tottenham (March 26)

An unhappy marriage came to an end when Conte left Spurs by mutual consent, just over a week on from lambasting his "selfish" squad, along with the entire club's mentality, following a 3-3 draw at Southampton. Conte had never seemed content at Tottenham, and now Cristian Stellini will oversee the rest of the season. The international break was a turbulent one for Spurs, with director of football Fabio Paratici now on a leave of absence after his ban from Italian football was made a worldwide one by FIFA last week.

Brendan Rodgers - Leicester City (April 2)

Leicester played the April fools on Saturday in their defeat at Selhurst Park, a result that left them in the relegation zone. Rodgers had earned the Foxes' backing with his achievements since taking over in 2019, having won the FA Cup and led Leicester into Europe twice. However, Leicester had won just two league games since the season restarted, and a change felt overdue.

Graham Potter - Chelsea (April 2)

Not long after the dust had settled on Rodgers' departure, Chelsea confirmed the news that Potter was no more. Well, not literally, but the man who had managed so much magic with Brighton could not replicate those tricks at Stamford Bridge. A three-game winning streak in March seemed to suggest a turnaround was in the offing, but a home draw with Everton and Saturday's 2-0 loss to Villa marked the end for Potter, who will perhaps regret leaving Brighton. He leaves Chelsea with the joint-lowest points-per-game total of any of the Blues' Premier League coaches (1.27).

Steven Gerrard can understand what Harry Kane might be thinking as he weighs up whether to leave Tottenham in pursuit of silverware.

Aside from a series of loan spells as a teenager, Kane has spent his entire club career at Spurs.

He is now Tottenham's record goalscorer, also becoming England's leading marksman during this international break.

But Kane remains without a major honour to his name, losing three finals with Spurs and one with England.

That wait for glory will not end this season, with Tottenham eliminated from the FA Cup and Champions League before Antonio Conte departed on Sunday.

With Manchester City dominant, Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle United rejuvenated and Liverpool and Chelsea likely to improve next season, the window in which Spurs can succeed may be closing.

That has prompted plenty of debate around Kane's future, but Gerrard is in a good position to consider the England captain's options.

Gerrard spent all but the final 18 months of his career at Liverpool.

Although he did win silverware – most notably the Champions League in 2005 – the Reds favourite never lifted the Premier League trophy and surely would have enjoyed greater success elsewhere.

Gerrard, appearing on Channel 4, said of Kane: "He's got a big decision to make career-wise.

"I've been there myself, where you're thinking: 'Is my team good enough to get me the medals? Am I going to get out of my career what I want to get?'"

Gerrard's emotional ties to Liverpool meant he stuck by them in pursuit of a long-awaited league triumph, but he believes a potential move will be playing on Kane's mind.

"It's different for me," Gerrard added. "I knew winning one trophy more with Liverpool would have meant a lot more to me than being anywhere else.

"He's got a big decision to make. I can't give him any advice on that, but I bet you every single day of his life now moving forward, it's going to be on his mind."

Kane pushed for a move to Man City in 2021, but Tottenham stood firm. City went on to sign Erling Haaland last year.

Man United appear more likely suitors for the 29-year-old this time, looking for a big-name striker to pair with Marcus Rashford following Cristiano Ronaldo's departure.

Steven Gerrard added further fuel to speculation over Liverpool's move for Jude Bellingham after telling the midfielder his development is well ahead of his own progress at the same age.

Bellingham impressed once again as England cruised past Ukraine with a 2-0 victory in Sunday's Euro 2024 qualifying clash and joined Gerrard on the Wembley Stadium touchline at full-time.

The former Reds captain, speaking as a pundit on Channel 4, lavished high praise on the Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who is reportedly a target of Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester City.

"You're a lot further ahead than when I was your age, so you're going in the right direction that's for sure," Gerrard told Bellingham.

When pressed on how Bellingham is further developed than ex-Liverpool and England star Gerrard, he added: "I never had that power and strength until I was probably 22, 23.

"So he is definitely more physically developed than me. He's more confident than me on the ball in terms of what he will try. And I'm not saying that just being modest, it's the truth, I think he's further on than what I was at 19.

"I got to where I wanted to get to and he'll get to where he wants to get to if he carries on doing what he's doing.

"He's in a fantastic place. Everything else around him he just needs to park it up and keep playing well and everything else will take care of itself."

It was not the first time Gerrard has lauded the teenage star, offering in January to take Bellingham out for dinner and talk about his future, suggesting a move to England and Liverpool would benefit his career.

Bellingham was quick to return the favour, praising the impact Gerrard had as Liverpool captain during his playing career.

He said: "The things that Stevie could do, the way he could carry a team and single-handedly win a game. He could do everything as a midfielder.

"I've said it multiple times that I look up to you and your game."

While a transfer-window battle awaits for the signature of one of Europe's hottest prospects, Bellingham continues to enjoy the learning experience of playing with England.

The former Birmingham City midfielder has already captained Dortmund this season and, while appreciating patience will be required, said leading his country out would be the greatest honour in football.

"That would be the biggest dream, and the biggest honour in football I think is to captain your country," he continued.

"There's a long pecking order that I highly respect and I'll wait my turn. In the meantime it's picking up what I can learn from them. This is the best place to do it.

"We should be looking to win every game. You set yourself a standard and an expectation and it's important you match that. We have to carry that on for the rest of the qualification campaign."

It's fair to say Harry Kane was something of a late bloomer on the international stage, at least in comparison to the man he has surpassed as England's all-time leading goalscorer.

While Wayne Rooney was named in Euro 2004's Team of the Tournament at the age of 18, Kane was 22 by the time he first appeared at a major international competition.

Despite Rooney's head start, the prospect of Kane beating his record of 53 England goals has seemed inevitable for some time after the Tottenham striker took on a talismanic role for Gareth Southgate's side. 

Kane could have broken the record at last the 2022 World Cup. He had already scored one penalty in the quarter-final against France and, with England 2-1 down, he stepped up to take another at Al Bayt Stadium.

Yet his effort soared over, England's chances of World Cup success crashing down around their captain.

Fitting, then, that it was from the penalty spot that Kane broke Rooney's record by netting his 54th England goal, as he put the Three Lions 2-0 up ahead Italy in their first match of 2023.

He has now cemented his place in the pantheon of England greats.

With Kane assuming his place as the country's greatest goalscorer, Stats Perform looks at the legacy he has built on the international stage.

Stepping out of Rooney's shadow and repaying Southgate's faith

Kane wasted no time in introducing himself on the international stage.

Having replaced Rooney as a substitute against Lithuania in March 2015, the Tottenham striker needed just 79 seconds to net in a 4-0 win.

Since 1872, Kane is one of just six players to score inside two minutes on his England debut, while that strike made him the first to do so since Gerry Hitchens in 1961.


However, after England's dismal Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland, Kane had scored only five goals in 17 international appearances. Retrospectively, it wasn't quite the flying start one may have expected from a future great.

While Kane entered that tournament having won the Premier League's Golden Boot, he was uninspired as Roy Hodgson sought to find space for both Rooney and Daniel Sturridge in an unbalanced team. 

That stunning defeat in Nice, as well as a corruption scandal that later led to the departure of Sam Allardyce after just one game at the helm, made 2016 a year to forget for England.

However, the appointment of Southgate that November, coupled with the new manager's decision to drop a declining Rooney the following March, set the stage for a dramatic improvement from the Three Lions' new talisman.  

All but five of Kane's 54 international goals have been scored under Southgate, the highest tally scored by any England player under a particular manager by some distance – Gary Lineker is second with 35 goals under Bobby Robson.

The man for the big occasion 

The idea that the England shirt can weigh heavily upon those who regularly star at club level has been a common theme for decades.

Of Rooney's 53 international goals, for instance, only one was scored at a World Cup – an ultimately inconsequential effort in 2014's decisive 2-1 loss to Uruguay in Sao Paulo.

The Manchester United great may have hit the net seven times across his six major tournaments, but four came in his remarkable breakout campaign at Euro 2004, and he was continually criticised for failing to carry his club form onto the international stage.

Rooney is not the only England star to suffer that fate. Frank Lampard scored three times at Euro 2004 but did not net at another major tournament. Fellow midfielder Steven Gerrard hit 21 goals for Three Lions, but just three came at tournaments. 

Despite arriving at the 2018 World Cup having plundered 30 goals across the 2017-18 Premier League season – his most prolific campaign in the competition – Kane was seemingly open to the same criticisms, but a Golden Boot-winning tournament changed perceptions.


Kane as England's tournament specialist

While defeats to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and Italy in the Euro 2020 final have left Southgate battling accusations of underachievement, England's very presence in some of the biggest international fixtures has owed much to Kane.

Kane's total of six goals in Russia was enough to see off the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Kylian Mbappe for the Golden Boot, and only Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick (both five) bettered his tally of four strikes as England went agonisingly close to Euro 2020 glory.

Having netted against Senegal and France at Qatar 2022, Kane's tally of 12 goals at major tournaments is an outright England record, beating Lineker's total of 10, which came exclusively at World Cups.

With Kane now having eight World Cup goals to his name and looking likely to participate in at least one more edition, the 29-year-old could also claim Lineker's status as England's top marksman in FIFA's flagship tournament.

Nevertheless, some might accuse him of "stat padding" against weak opponents. After all, Kane has scored more international goals against San Marino (five) than any other nation.

However, he has also often been the scourge of the world's elite, as England's old rivals Germany – the opponents for four of Kane's England goals – will attest. 


Cementing Kane's legacy: Does more history await in 2026? 

Brazil great Ronaldo, Miroslav Klose, Mario Kempes, Gerd Muller and Eusebio are among the legends to have claimed the honour of top-scoring at a World Cup. None of them – nor any other player – has done so at two separate tournaments.

Kane ultimately could not repeat his 2018 exploits in Qatar. But in terms of other records and future success, age is – just about – on his side. The Spurs striker will be 33 when the 2026 World Cup rolls around. He will likely have set a daunting target for any future England strikers to chase.

Troubling Klose's all-time record of 16 World Cup goals may be unrealistic but claiming a spot in the top five of that list – and beating Pele's tally of 12 – appears a plausible target. 

While Kane's England legacy may be chiefly judged on whether he can inspire the team to bring football home for the first time since 1966, his international goalscoring feats are worthy of lofty praise regardless.

If Kane wins a major trophy during his England career or not, his contribution on the big stage means he should be remembered as one of his country's best ever.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola issued a public apology to Steven Gerrard over "unnecessary and stupid comments" he made about the Liverpool legend last week.

Guardiola referenced Gerrard's slip against Chelsea in the 2013-14 Premier League title race when defending City amid allegations of more than 100 breaches of financial rules. 

Gerrard's costly error allowed Demba Ba to race through and score for Chelsea in a 2-0 win at Anfield, with that proving a pivotal moment as City went on to win the title.

"I don't know if we are responsible for Steven Gerrard slipping. Was that our fault?" Guardiola said last Friday. "I have respect for Steven – but that moment belongs to us."

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday ahead of City's huge showdown with Arsenal, Guardiola opened proceedings by revealing he has reached out to Gerrard to apologise.

"I apologise to Steven Gerrard for my unnecessary and stupid comments I said the last time about him," he said. 

"He knows how I admire him and his career, what he has done for this country that I am living and training in. I'm ashamed of myself because he doesn't deserve it. 

"I truly believe in my comments in previous press conferences to defend my club, but I didn't represent my club well putting his name in these stupid comments."

Gerrard spent 17 seasons at Liverpool prior to leaving in 2015 and played out the final two campaigns of his playing career in Major League Soccer with Los Angeles Galaxy.

He has since moved into management and enjoyed a successful spell at Rangers, winning the Scottish Premiership in 2020-21, before a disappointing year with Aston Villa.

Pep Guardiola reaffirmed that Manchester City's glorious moments will always belong to them, asking if it was the club's fault Steven Gerrard slipped in the 2013-14 season.

City have been accused of over 100 breaches of the Premier League's financial rules between the seasons of 2009-10 and 2017-18. 

Speculation has been rife as to the level of punishment the champions might receive should they be found guilty, including points deductions, relegation or the stripping of the titles they won during that time period, including two under Guardiola.

Yet Guardiola has insisted the moments cannot be taken away from City or their fans regardless of the punishment, if indeed there is one, with the manager sarcastically asking the press if it was his club's fault that Liverpool great Gerrard slipped at a vital moment in the 2013-14 title race.

Gerrard fell to the Anfield turf during a clash with Chelsea in April of that season, with Demba Ba going on to score as the Blues triumphed and handed City the chance to go and win their second Premier League title.

"Those moments belong to us. They absolutely belong to us, regardless of the sentence, they belong to us," Guardiola said.

"The goal from Sergio Agüero [in 2012]. I don't know if we are responsible for Steven Gerrard slipping at Anfield. Was that our fault?

"I have respect for Steven Gerrard – but that moment belongs to us.

"The moments that we lived these years together, the Premier League will decide, but I know what we won and the way we won it.

"I know the effort we put in. If something happened in 2009 or 2010 it is not going to change one second."

Guardiola has full faith in the club's hierarchy.

"What I can say is I am proud of my owners, of my chairman, and the relationship we have had, this time together," he said.

"I have relied on them [and what they told me] a lot in the past, now you can't imagine."

Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola also remains fully committed to City's cause.

"If they want me here I will be here," he continued. "The results are not good, they will put me out because it is a business where you have to win.

"But if they want me I will not let them down and my players, too. I want to convince them that what we have done, we have done and they won't remove it.

"We have to defend our position and the way to do it is on the pitch, that’s the only way, and the way we have done it all the time."

City would move within three points of league leaders Arsenal, who drew with Brentford on Saturday, should they beat Aston Villa on Sunday.

The corresponding fixture last season saw City come from behind to beat Villa – then managed by Gerrard – 3-2 on the final day of the season, clinching the fourth Premier League title of Guardiola's tenure in the process, ahead of Liverpool.

Steven Gerrard believes Jude Bellingham should steer clear of continental Europe's top clubs and come to Liverpool.

Former Reds midfielder Gerrard has offered to take Bellingham out for dinner and tell him about what he could achieve by moving to Anfield.

Bellingham has long been touted as a big-money target for the Reds, and Gerrard believes the 19-year-old would be more likely to flourish with Liverpool than with Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich.

The attraction of Liverpool may be diminishing, with Jurgen Klopp's team looking highly unlikely to qualify for the Champions League through the Premier League route this season.

They may yet get there by winning the Champions League, but that looks a fantastical prospect given they face Real Madrid in the last-16 stage, and given Liverpool's general form has been terribly patchy this season. A 0-0 draw at Anfield against Chelsea on Saturday left the Reds rooted in mid-table, a worrying distance behind the top four.

"All he needs to do is send his diary to me, when he's got a free day," Gerrard said, while working as a pundit on BT Sport. "I'll fly to Dortmund personally, I'll take him out for a nice dinner and we'll talk about it."

What is beyond dispute is that Bellingham's skill set and dynamism would improve Liverpool's midfield, with Klopp's experienced campaigners Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara not the force they once were. Gerrard described that area as "a little bit stale".

Gerrard said: "I'm sure Jude is bright enough to see there's a stand going up here, this is going to be a 60,000-seat stadium, they've got one of the best five managers in the world, they've won the Premier League of late, they've been in Champions League finals of late, they pay very well here – that's a fact."

Bellingham plays at an 81,000-capacity ground with Dortmund so Anfield is small by comparison, but there are undoubtedly aspects of a move to Liverpool that might appeal.

Dortmund are struggling domestically this season, too, so Bellingham would not be giving up the prospect of likely league titles in Germany, particularly given Bayern have dominated there for the last decade.

But he might have transfer options where winning major trophies would appear more likely than if he were to move to Merseyside.

Even though Bellingham has been playing in Germany for three seasons, and flourishing in the Bundesliga, Gerrard feels the former Birmingham City player belongs in England.

"I think it's important he stays in this country," said former Liverpool captain Gerrard. "He's 19 years of age.

"You talk about Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich; I know he's doing it at Dortmund now, but them clubs are at a higher level than Dortmund and you can get swallowed up.

"There's a lot of stars, and you can get swallowed up by making a move too soon.

"In my opinion, staying around England, staying around this country, getting developed, there's still growth in him, and he can evolve, and I think staying in England until a certain age until he hits his peak years is very important for the boy now."

Philippe Coutinho has shut down speculation he is looking to leave Aston Villa, with the Brazil international blasting reports he wants an exit as "lies".

The former Liverpool and Barcelona playmaker initially arrived at Villa Park in January on a short-term loan deal under Steven Gerrard, whom he played alongside at Liverpool.

A successful spell earned a permanent move from Barca during the off-season, but following Gerrard's sacking in October, Unai Emery took charge at the Midlands club.

Reports emerged earlier this month the 30-year-old was seeking a departure in the January transfer window, but Coutinho has taken to social media to rubbish those claims.

"In the last few days I've seen a lot of news with my name," he said in an Instagram post. "The problem is now that some lies have started, and I'm here to clarify.

"Never, and at any moment, [have I] had any kind of conversation asking to leave the club, because I'm happy here and my family [are] too.

"My only focus now that I've recovered from injury is to work at the maximum every day, to play [at] a high level, and help the club and my team-mates to achieve our goals."

It has been a tough campaign for Coutinho so far, with form and injury struggles contributing to him losing his position in the Brazil squad ahead of the World Cup.

After recording eight goal involvements (five goals, three assists) in 19 Premier League games during his initial loan spell, he has failed to contribute any in 13 league games since the move was made permanent.

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