Sir Alex Ferguson will have the chance to secure further international honours after Richard Fahey confirmed his Spirit Dancer is on course for the Neom Turf Cup in Saudi Arabia later this month.

The former Manchester United manager was no stranger to glory overseas during his time in the dugout and alongside co-owners Peter Done and Ged Mason saw Spirit Dancer collect £500,000 when victorious in the Bahrain International Trophy in November.

The seven-year-old has since tuned up for his outing in Riyadh by finishing fourth in the Jebel Hatta at Meydan and Fahey is confident that will put him spot on for the $2million event on February 24.

“I was delighted to get that run in Dubai into him,” said Fahey.

“We were pleased with the run and we were probably just drawn a little bit wide – hopefully the run will put him 100 per cent right for Saudi.

“We’re going to run in the Neom. I was keen to go for the big one there (Saudi Cup), but I just felt nine furlongs on the dirt would be sharp enough for him. He’s a horse I would probably want to go a mile and a half in Saudi rather than a sharp nine, if that makes sense.”

Spirit Dancer’s owners revelled in their Bahrain success before Christmas, with Ferguson describing it as his “best ever” victory as an owner.

All of the son of Frankel’s ownership trio appear keen on another visit to the Middle East, with Fahey predicting a strong showing from his charge in the extended 10-furlong turf contest.

“Barring problems I’m sure his owners are very keen,” continued Fahey.

“Peter Done and Ged Mason are both very keen and Sir Alex is keen as well, so it looks like they are booking and barring problems I would say they will probably be there.

“We certainly enjoyed Bahrain and anything now is a bonus, but we’re expecting him to run a big race in Saudi.”

Oleksandr Usyk could still fight in Saudi Arabia on February 17 despite his showdown with Tyson Fury being shelved, his promoter has confirmed.

This month’s proposed undisputed world heavyweight fight between Usyk and Fury in Riyadh was postponed on Friday after the British boxer suffered a “freak cut” above his right eye in sparring.

It was the latest twist in a long-awaited saga to have all the belts on the line in boxing’s blue-ribbon division, but Usyk could still ensure the card goes ahead.

Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk confirmed on Saturday morning during an Instagram live that he is working on finding the Ukrainian a new opponent, with Filip Hrgovic being lined up due to the Croatian boxer being the mandatory challenger for Usyk’s IBF belt.

“Will Usyk be fighting on the 17th? We are working on that and in the next couple of days a final decision will be taken,” Krassyuk said.

“There is only one option because the IBF has sanctioned the undisputed fight on the condition that after this fight the champion has to fight the mandatory, which is Hrgovic. That means if the champion fights someone else, he will be stripped of his belt by the IBF.

“With Hrgovic, there is a slight chance.”

Fury apologised on Friday night after confirmation that his highly anticipated bout for all four major world heavyweight titles with Usyk had to be postponed.

The facial cut suffered by the ‘Gypsy King’ required medical attention and “significant stitching”, which rules out the possibility of a new date being quickly found.

Krassyuk added: “If we speak about undisputed, it is still a question whether it will happen some day at all?

“We have tried so many times to make it and the more people doubt it will ever take place.

“Let’s hope, let’s pray. Of course we wish Tyson a soonest recovery and hopefully next time nothing will stop him taking punishment from Usyk.”

Tyson Fury’s showdown against Oleksandr Usyk for all four major world heavyweight titles has been postponed because of a “freak cut” the Briton has sustained above his right eye.

Fury was due to defend his WBC belt on February 17 in Saudi Arabia against his Ukrainian rival, the WBA, IBF and WBO champion, in the first undisputed world heavyweight title fight of this century.

But with just 15 days to go until one of the most anticipated fights of the year, Fury’s promoters Queensberry announced their charge had suffered an injury during a sparring session at his Riyadh training camp.

Fury said in a statement: “I am absolutely devastated after preparing for this fight for so long and being in such superb condition.

“I feel bad for everyone involved in this huge event and I will work diligently towards the rescheduled date once the eye has healed. I can only apologise to everyone affected.”

Frank Warren believes Francis Ngannou can cause an upset by defeating Anthony Joshua ahead of their heavyweight showdown in Saudi Arabia on March 8.

Briton Joshua returns to action following December’s impressive stoppage over Sweden’s Otto Wallin as he continues his bid on becoming a three-time world champion against mixed martial arts star Ngannou in a 10-round bout.

Queensbury promoter Warren, whose prize fighter Tyson Fury came back from an early knockdown to beat Ngannou in controversial fashion in October, believes Joshua should be wary of his opponent’s punch power.

Speaking to the PA news agency at the launch of Queensbury’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ boxing card, Warren said: “Joshua’s come into this after his last fight against Wallin. He’ll be a big favourite going in, but I know that if he gets caught on the whiskers then this fella (Ngannou) could cause a massive upset because he can whack.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how he takes the fight and to see if he fights on the outside or the inside. Ngannou’s game is getting on the inside, he’s a big man, he’s strong.

“I’m intrigued to see what Ngannou’s learnt from his last fight.”

Joshua showed signs of being back to his best with last month’s ruthless victory over Wallin, which marked his third victory of 2023 following wins against Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius.

But Warren believes Ngannou has the tools to exploit AJ’s “wealth” of weaknesses in Riyadh.

“If I’m fighting AJ, what am I looking to do? I’d look to exploit his weaknesses and there’s a wealth of that which we’ve seen,” Warren added. “We’ve seen his weaknesses in that first fight against Tubby the Tuba (defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019).

“Also the two fights to Oleksandr Usyk, we can see what they are. People have seen him wobble a few times in fights, that happens with him. I’m not saying there’s a confidence issue, but there wasn’t that where he was such an emphatic fighter.

“I think he’s changed. He’s changed his style a bit, which he should do. His new trainer (Ben Davison) has brought some momentum to him, but he’s going to have a fight on his hand.”

Nathan Heaney and Joe Joyce are among the fighters on the ‘Magnficent Seven’ card in Birmingham on March 16, and Warren is expecting a competitive night of action.

He said: “The last one we did I think was British promotion of the year. They were great fights, competitive fights and it’s a similar situation here. We have young and established fighters who are all in competitive fights.

“This is something we will now do on a regular basis. They will all be looking these guys to outdo each other because someone wants to come through as the eye catching fight.”

Anthony Joshua moved closer to regaining a version of the world heavyweight title after his crushing win over Otto Wallin in Saudi Arabia on Friday night.

Joshua, who has been without a belt since his loss to Oleksandr Usyk in October last year, dominated the 33-year-old Swede with a performance that suggested he is back to his destructive best.

Joshua had been slated to meet former champion Deontay Wilder in his next bout but, after the American was defeated by Joseph Parker, the Londoner’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed he will now target a fight against hard-hitting Croatian Filip Hrgovic.

Hrgovic is mandatory challenger for the IBF title currently held by Usyk, but the assumption is the Ukrainian will relinquish or lose the belt when he invokes a rematch clause following his undisputed fight against Tyson Fury in February.

Hearn said: “It was a tough decision between the championship and Deontay Wilder. We signed for Deontay Wilder but he lost tonight and maybe that’s a blessing, because really this guy is about championships.

“It’s going to be Hrgovic against AJ for the world title. I’m so happy to see him smiling and performing so well.

“He’s a dangerous man when he’s in that kind of mood, and 2024 is going to be very interesting and every heavyweight should be on notice – he’s back.”

Hrgovic, who needed less than two minutes to outclass Mark de Mori on the Riyadh undercard, has won all 17 of his professional fights, all but three inside the distance.

He is currently the mandatory challenger for a shot at the version of the belt held by Usyk, and must be given his shot within a time period that makes it impossible to fit in the prospective Fury-Usyk rematch.

Victory would make Joshua a three-time holder of a heavyweight title belt, having lost previous versions in defeat to Usyk and Andy Ruiz Jr.

Coming after back-to-back defeats to the Ukrainian, Joshua’s win over Wallin capped a satisfying 2023 in which he beat Jermaine Franklin Jr by unanimous decision in April before sealing a seventh-round stoppage against Robert Helenius in August.

While Joshua still has much to do to prove he belongs in the same category as Usyk and Fury, Hearn has no doubts that his win over Wallin will pave the way for him to prove himself as the division’s undisputed number one.

“They told me he’s back, that he’s destroying people in sparring, and I believe that this AJ is the best heavyweight in the world,” added Hearn.

“Otto Wallin is an excellent heavyweight, and he absolutely dispatched him. He broke him down and broke his nose – it was a stunning performance. In this mindset and with this team, I believe he is unbeatable, and 2024 is going to be a massive year for him.”

Pep Guardiola spoke of his pride after Manchester City thrashed Fluminense 4-0 to win the Club World Cup for the first time on Friday.

It was the club’s fifth trophy of a memorable 2023 after their previous successes in the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and European Super Cup.

Julian Alvarez began the rout after just 40 seconds, teed up another for Phil Foden and then wrapped up a one-sided victory in the closing minutes. City also benefited from an own goal as they overran their Brazilian opponents.

City manager Guardiola, who had previously won the competition three times, told the club’s website: “I am so proud of this club. What we have done is an outstanding achievement.

“To win this trophy is to be the best team in the world and our players, our coaches, our backroom staff, all of them work hard every single day to bring us this success.

“As a manager what I am most proud of (is) that we are always there. No matter how much we win, no matter what trophies we lift, we are there again to fight for the next one.

“To win the treble was truly special but to win two more trophies and now hold these five major titles shows the unique mentality of this team, of the club and its fans.

“It is something no other English team has ever achieved and we will always remember this incredible time we spent together.”

Foden, whose cross also forced the own goal, similarly hailed a momentous night in the club’s history.

The England midfielder said on TNT Sports: “We are not used to playing in this heat so it was difficult but we are delighted with the outcome. We’re over the ‘world’.

“This one is so important for the club. It’s the first time we’ve won it. We’re delighted and it’s massive for the club.”

Foden felt Fluminense, the Copa Libertadores winners, gave City a tough night.

“It was an unbelievable match,” he said. “Fair play to them, the way they play. I love the way they play – short passes.

“They are a great side and they didn’t make it easy but I thought the lads not only showed quality but heart and determination.”

Anthony Joshua insists he remains focused on securing victory on Saturday night and will not be distracted by thoughts of future fights when he goes up against Otto Wallin in Saudi Arabia.

The 34-year-old is aiming to make it three wins from three in 2023, having already beaten Jermaine Franklin Jr by unanimous decision in April before sealing a seventh-round stoppage against Robert Helenius in August to earn a 26th professional career victory.

Saturday’s bout in Riyadh is a key clash for the former two-time world heavyweight champion, who has ambitions of returning to the top of the heavyweight division, and he weighed in at 17st 13lbs, nearly 13lbs heavier than his opponent.

Joshua said: “Without Saturday night there is no future. Saturday night I’ve been saying all week is my main focus. Whatever happens in the ring, I know that’s where my heart is. I need to get this win.

“If my prayers are answered, I’ll get the win.

“I’ve been focused, praying hard and, whatever God wants from me, I’m going to follow that path. I’m making sure it’s not just prayer, I’m following up by action as well.”

Amid talk of a proposed fight against Deontay Wilder, who faces Joseph Parker on the same bill, Joshua says he is focused on securing success on Saturday night before considering his next move.

He said: “I’m a serious fighter, I’m a serious businessman, I’ve got a great team behind me and they’re handling business. As I always say, let me focus on what I’ve got to focus on.”

Joshua has recorded three career losses so far – beaten by Andy Ruiz in 2019 before Oleksandr Usyk defeated him twice – while the Swedish southpaw has only one career loss to date against Tyson Fury and claims there will be a “new king” on Saturday.

Wallin said: “I’m a small fighter. I’m a southpaw. I’ve trained for this moment for a very long time so I’m very much ready for it.

“I know tomorrow there’s going to be a new king and he’s from Sweden.”

Wilder and Parker will also go head to head in Riyadh.

Wilder comes into the bout at a lean 15st 3lbs compared to Parker’s 17st 7lbs and the heavy hitter, who has claimed 42 of his 43 victories by knockout, believes Parker have “never felt the power” he possesses.

“I’m just this calm and collected,” Wilder said.

“I’ve been here many times before and I’ve fought his style before. He’s never fought a style like mine. He’s never felt the power that I bring and possess.”

Parker vowed to “be aggressive” ahead of their meeting.

He said: “We’re here, we’re ready and I can’t wait.

“I’m going to be aggressive, go in there, execute the plan, follow the strategies and get the win.”

Pep Guardiola urged his Manchester City players to seize a potential “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity after reaching the Club World Cup final.

The Champions League winners set up a clash with Brazilian side Fluminense in Friday’s showpiece in Jeddah with a comfortable 3-0 win over Japanese outfit Urawa Red Diamonds on Tuesday.

City needed an own goal in first-half stoppage time to get their campaign up and running in Saudi Arabia, but strikes from Mateo Kovacic and Bernardo Silva after the break secured a straightforward victory.

City manager Guardiola told reporters at a press conference said: “We didn’t win it (before) – it’s the first time Manchester City are here.

“This is the last step – a title the club doesn’t have, so we’ll go for it.

“To play this final you have to have done incredible things – mainly to win the Champions League.

“Once we are here, maybe it is a trophy we play for once in a lifetime.

“It’s against Fluminense, a South American team, experienced, a lot of quality. I saw yesterday how good they are.

“But we are there. Tomorrow we will start to see Fluminense and try to do a good performance and win the title.”

City were without Erling Haaland for a fourth successive game due to a foot injury but were still far too strong for the Asian Champions League winners.

They had already created numerous chances before defender Marius Hoibraten turned into his own net to give City the lead.

Reds boss Maciej Skorza said: “They are the best team in the world in my opinion, but our plan didn’t work in the perfect way.

“We expected that possession would be huge in favour of Manchester City. We had our plan for counter-attacks, but this didn’t happen.

“Maybe this is the big difference in the physical aspect between the two teams and lack of experience of playing teams like City.”

Alex Schalk stepped off the bench to propel Urawa Red Diamonds into the FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 victory over Club Leon in Saudi Arabia.

Schalk combined with Jose Kante in the 78th minute, just five minutes after coming on, to break the deadlock in a match which produced few chances at either end.

The Dutch forward chested a long ball to Kante and upon picking up the return pass, he fended off two defenders and stabbed the ball past Rodolfo Cota.

Cota should have done better but the keeper at least made amends with a fine save to prevent Schalk scoring a second late on.

Club Leon’s prospects’ dimmed when captain William Tesillo was sent off for a second bookable offence after hacking down Schalk with six minutes to go.

Manchester City await the Japanese J1 League club in the next round at the Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium.

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister insists everyone will be welcome at the 2034 World Cup despite the country’s criminalisation of same-sex activity.

The Middle East kingdom is all-but certain to host the finals in 11 years’ time after emerging as the sole bidder.

Concerns have been raised at what conditions will be like in Saudi Arabia for individuals from the LGBTQ+ community, but sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal has told the BBC: “Everyone’s welcome in the kingdom.

“Like any other nation we have rules and regulations that everyone should abide by and respect.

“When we come to the UK we respect the rules and regulations, whether we believe in them or not. Through the 85 events that we have had so far, we haven’t had any issues.”

The same issue was prevalent before and during the 2022 finals in Qatar. At that tournament, spectators had rainbow-coloured items confiscated by stadium security guards.

Seven countries’ captains were also threatened with sporting sanctions starting at a yellow card by FIFA if they wore rainbow-coloured ‘OneLove’ armbands at the tournament.

That competition was played in winter due to the oppressive summer heat in the Middle East, causing disruption to many leagues in Europe, but Prince Adbulaziz said it was not certain that would need to be repeated in Saudi Arabia.

“Why not see what the possibilities are to do it in the summer?” he added.

“Whether it is summer or winter it doesn’t matter for us, as long as we make sure that we (deliver) the right atmosphere to host such an event.”

He also said concerns over the treatment of migrant workers involved in building World Cup infrastructure, which dogged Qatar’s hosting for more than a decade in the run-up to the finals, would not be repeated.

“We have 10 years to work on that, we already started in a lot of the venues, so we have a long time to do it in the right time, in the right process,” he said.

“We’re already developing infrastructure… so we are not required to build a lot more to host such an event.”

There has been criticism of the process FIFA followed that left Saudi Arabia as the single bidder in the race for 2034.

FIFA announced in October that its Council had agreed the Portugal, Spain and Morocco bid as the sole candidate to host the 2030 finals and that the first three matches of the tournament should be played in South America to mark the event’s centenary.

On its continental rotation, that meant only bids from countries in the Asian and Oceania confederations would be considered for 2034.

When Australia announced on October 31 that it would not bid, Saudi Arabia was left as the sole candidate.

Prince Abdulaziz said it was “just a theory” that FIFA had engineered the process in Saudi Arabia’s favour and added: “Everyone was clear on the regulations, nobody objected to them during (the process) so I don’t think there was any lack of transparency from FIFA. It was only that we were ready to do it and maybe others weren’t. That’s not our fault.

“As you can see from the announcement of more than 125 federations in support of the Saudi bid… the world also wants us to host 2034.”

The bids for 2030 and 2034 still need to be fully evaluated and then ratified by all member associations at a FIFA Congress.

Kevin De Bruyne has been named in Manchester City’s squad for the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia later this month, organiser FIFA has announced.

The Belgium playmaker has not featured for the treble winners since undergoing surgery on a hamstring injury in August.

De Bruyne recently said his recovery was going well but he was not expecting to return to action until the new year.

The 32-year-old’s presence in City’s official 23-man squad for the tournament indicates his comeback is indeed on track, but whether he will actually be fit enough to feature in Jeddah remains to be seen.

At the very least, it will be an opportunity for De Bruyne to return to first-team training at a warm-weather camp.

De Bruyne said he still had “a little bit to go” when interviewed by Sky Sports at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 26 but hoped to be playing again “from close after new year”.

The Club World Cup begins on December 12 but City, who are representing Europe as the Champions League holders, do not enter until the semi-final stage seven days later.

They will play the winner of the second-round match between Mexican side Club Leon and Urawa Reds of Japan. The final takes place on December 22.

Australia has opted against a bid to host the 2034 World Cup with Saudi Arabia on course to stage the tournament.

With FIFA’s deadline for declarations of interest on Tuesday, Football Australia issued a statement saying it had “explored the opportunity” of a bid but had decided against it.

“Having taken all factors into consideration, we have reached the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition,” the statement said.

“Football Australia is ambitious to bring more major tournaments to our shores. We believe we are in a strong position to host the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and then welcome the greatest teams in world football for the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup.”

It said hosting those events, in between the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 2032 Olympics in Brisbane, would complete a “truly golden decade for Australian football”.

Saudia Arabia announced its declaration of interest within hours of FIFA outlining the process for hosting the 2034 tournament.

The awarding of the 2026 finals to the United States, Canada and Mexico followed by Spain, Portugal and Morocco being set to host the 2030 finals – subject to formal approval by FIFA’s congress – means that only bids from the Asian Football Confederation and the Oceania Football Confederation will be considered for the 2034 finals.

Saudi Arabia confirmed on October 4 that it would bid for the showpiece tournament in 2034 when Saudi Minister of Sport Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said in a statement via the Saudi Press Agency: “Hosting a FIFA World Cup in 2034 would help us achieve our dream of becoming a leading nation in world sport and would mark a significant milestone in the country’s transformation.

“As an emerging and welcoming home for all sports, we believe that hosting a FIFA World Cup is a natural next step in our football journey.”

Tyson Fury hit back at his critics at the launch press conference of his boxing contest with mixed martial arts fighter Francis Ngannou before he hinted at a second bout between the pair in the octagon.

Fury has faced plenty of scrutiny since it was announced in July that he would next step in the ring with former UFC world heavyweight champion Ngannou on October 28 in Saudi Arabia.

While it will be a boxing contest that lasts 10 rounds in Riyadh, Fury’s WBC heavyweight title will not be on the line and this bout occurs amid the backdrop of a potential unification clash with WBA, IBF and WBO-belt holder Oleksandr Usyk falling through.

The Gypsy King was at his charismatic best in London for the fight dubbed ‘Battle of the Baddest’ but aimed at a dig at the media and his detractors who question why he has not been able to arrange a clash for the ages with Usyk.

“I have to take my hat off to Francis for his story, where he has come from, the fight, the grind and the determination to get to where he is. He was a young boy in Africa with a big dream and everybody at home probably laughed at him,” Fury explained.

“But I won’t laugh at anyone because I know man’s struggle. I come from a place where everything is possible. I may not be here today if things had gone differently so I never underestimate anybody. The media say he has no chance.

“I say if I go to the boozer and get in a brawl with a drunken guy, if he hits me, he may knock me out so how am I not going to prepare 100 per cent for an absolute killing machine who is trying to take my brains out? I will give Francis the respect he 100 per cent deserves.

“I need to bring my A-game because there is more on the line than a boxing fight. If I lose to an MMA guy, I will never be able to show my face in public again and I will be ridiculed. People will chuck it at me forever.

“So, if the media want to take it as a joke or whatever, make no mistake I will come into this leaving zero stones unturned. I will come in at my fittest, strongest and at the best I have ever been. If I am not, if I get knocked out, I want people to laugh at me.”

Both of Fury’s promoters, Frank Warren of Queensberry and Top Rank’s Bob Arum, predicted entertainment will be guaranteed next month, but boxing fans will wonder what is next for Britain’s world heavyweight champion.

Talk continues to rumble on over if Fury could fight compatriot Anthony Joshua in 2024 or if a unification clash may happen with Usyk after the Lancashire boxer beat Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora last year in one-sided fights.

Yet, the 35-year-old dropped a big hint there could be a second tale between himself and Ngannou, who is preparing for his boxing debut.

Fury insisted: “I think I could beat you in the cage. I would kick your a*** in the cage, no problem. One hundred per cent. Personally, I will beat you in the boxing ring and then kick your a*** in the cage.”

This fight will kick off Riyadh season in Saudi Arabia and Fury provided a chilling prophecy of what the future could hold in store for the Middle East country, which is repeatedly criticised by anti-human rights groups and accused of sportswashing.

He added: “It is a very special event for me and a special time in sports where a powerhouse like Saudi Arabia are coming in taking over the game. They are taking over football, taking over boxing, I think within five to 10 years they will be the powerhouse of all sports. All the big sporting events will be in Saudi Arabia somewhere.”

Ngannou will realise a dream by fighting as a professional boxer for the first time and has help from Mike Tyson, who will be in his corner.

Boasting a record of 12 knock-outs in his 17 UFC contests, the 37-year-old from Cameroon promised if his punch lands, it will knock out Fury.

“I ask myself what will happen at the moment that guy hits the floor and doesn’t get up? Does that make me best boxer in the world? If you take out number one, it makes you number one,” Ngannou pondered.

“If it does land, goodnight. Lights off. What do you think will happen? This is a heavyweight fight and that is what is very exciting about heavyweight fights.

“We know everybody in the heavyweight division can knock each other out. I am going in there to fight. To hit and not get hit. That is the rules of boxing and I am very aware of that.”

Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick on his Al Ahli debut as the former Liverpool striker got the much-hyped Saudi Pro League season up and running with dash of star power.

A host of big-name player from Europe’s top clubs, including Premier League stalwarts and Champions League winners, have been attracted to the oil-rich Gulf state in a trolley dash worth almost half a billion US dollars leading up to the 2023/24 campaign.

Firmino arrived as a well-paid free transfer from Anfield and the Brazil forward enjoyed a memorable start as he inspired a 3-1 win for Al Ahli over Al Hazem in Jeddah.

The 31-year-old, who was handed the captain’s armband, netted twice in the first nine minutes as he linked up with fellow imports Riyad Mahrez and Allan Saint-Maximin and rounded off the scoring midway through the second half.

There was an assist apiece for former Manchester City winger Mahrez and Newcastle old boy Saint-Maximin, but not all of Al Ahli’s high-profile acquisitions excelled.

Edouard Mendy, the former Chelsea goalkeeper, was enjoying a quiet evening until he side-footed a clearance straight to opposition forward Vina and found himself chipped from 25 yards as he scrambled back into position.

The error did not cost the home side, who were promoted last season and are one of several sides to have built a star-studded squad with the assistance of the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

Firmino opened his account with a powerful near-post header in the sixth minute and doubled his tally soon after when Saint-Maximin sprayed a pass wide for Mahrez, who left the striker a close-range tap-in.

He made the match ball his own in the 72nd minute when his headed effort from Saint-Maximin’s curling cross was saved, hooking his leg round to finish on the rebound.

Firmino has been joined in the league by his former Liverpool team-mates Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Sadio Mane, while Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante also take their place among the A-list cast of recruits.

Liverpool’s LGBGT+ fans group Kop Outs are “appalled and concerned” club captain Jordan Henderson is considering a move to Saudi Arabia side Al Ettifaq.

The England midfielder is understood to be a target for the team now managed by Steven Gerrard, the man Henderson assumed the armband from at Anfield, with reports suggesting the 33-year-old is close to accepting an eye-watering £700,000-plus-a-week offer.

Henderson has been a significant supporter of both the group and LGBGT+ issues – he is a Rainbow Laces ambassador – and so suggestions he is ready to move to Saudi Arabia, whose human rights record has long been criticised, has prompted an angry response from Kop Outs.

“Kop Outs have valued the allyship shown by @Jhenderson,” said a statement on Twitter.

“We are appalled and concerned that anyone might consider working for a #sportswashing operation for a regime where women & LGBT+ people are oppressed & that regularly tops the world death sentence table?”

“Gerrard’s participation in this sportswashing is particularly galling given his previous support for LA Galaxy team-mate Robbie Rogers (who came out as gay in 2013).

“When someone’s made a fortune, should money tempt them to go to work? Maybe they should be asking themselves those questions.

“We hope that Jordan Henderson proves to be a man of his word and stays true to the values of our club, which so far he has been an absolute embodiment of.”

It is understood Liverpool have yet to receive an approach from Al Ettifaq and the player still has two years to run on his contract, which in itself means any potential move would involve a transfer fee more significant than the nominal amount being suggested in the Middle East.

Liverpool’s midfield is undergoing a revamp this summer with the experienced James Milner leaving for Brighton and the contracts of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita expiring and they have been replaced by Argentina World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister and Hungary captain Dominik Szobozslai for a combined £95million.

That may mean reduced playing time for Henderson, who has lifted every elite trophy during his captaincy of the club, but there is no appetite within the club to lose such an experienced player and integral part of the dressing room.

Former team-mate Jamie Carragher said if Henderson does accept a deal then he also has to take the criticism which will inevitably come his way.

“The money is difficult to turn down hence why virtually no one has, a great servant & player for Liverpool,” the ex-defender-turned-pundit wrote on Twitter when asked about Henderson.

“Not a player in his prime but again a big statement to get the Liverpool captain to the Saudi league.

“He will get criticism because he got a lot of praise for his stance on LGBT+ in the past.”

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