Steven Gerrard has been named as the new manager of Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq – but which players will the Liverpool legend be working with next season?
Roberto Firmino will reportedly be the next big name to sign for a Saudi Arabian club, while the likes of Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Kalidou Koulibaly will be turning out alongside Cristiano Ronaldo next term.
Al-Ettifaq aren’t one of the country’s four biggest clubs recently taken over by the Public Investment Fund. They finished seventh last season and don’t quite boast the same star power as some of the clubs at the top end of the table.
Gerrard will be taking over a largely homegrown squad of Saudi players, although there are nine overseas players currently on their books. We’ve taken a closer look at the players he’ll be coaching next term.
Brazilian ‘keeper Victor played every minute of Al-Ettifaq’s underwhelming midtable campaign last term.
He conceded 36 goals in 30 appearances and kept 10 clean sheets after arriving as a free agent, having been released by Portuguese club Maritimo.
The 36-year-old has spent almost the entirety of his domestic career in Brazil and made over 100 appearances for Flamengo and Gremio, with whom he won the Copa Libertadores in 2017.
Tisserand came up through Monaco’s academy but was sold just before their 2016-17 title-winning campaign.
The defender subsequently spent time at Ingolstadt, Wolfsburg and Fenerbahce before joining Al-Ettifaq last summer.
Most recently seen at the heart of North Macedonia’s as they suffered a 7-0 mauling to England, Velkowski is approaching 50 caps on the international stage.
But the centre-back has never played in a major European league, having gone from Macedonian outfits Rabotnicki and Vardar to Croatian club Rijeka and eventually the Saudi Pro League in 2022.
Another addition in the summer of 2022, Ozdemir will be among the star players in Gerrard’s team next season.
The 25-year-old has just one cap for Turkey but he played a key role at the base of midfield as Trabzonspor upset the odds to claim the Turkish Super Lig title in 2021-22.
Al Ettifaq’s record signing, having been signed from Dijon for a €5million fee back in 2020, Sliti only made 10 starts last season in an injury-hit campaign.
The left winger has also featured for Tunisia at the last two World Cups.
According to Transfermarkt, Sliti’s contract expires this summer. Watch this space for whether he sticks around to play under Gerrard next term.
🇹🇳🥅 LE BUT SPECTACULAIRE DE NAÏM SLITI !!! pic.twitter.com/rJE2CcZv41
— TUNISIE FOOT FR 🇹🇳🇫🇷 (@tunisiefootfr) May 5, 2022
Not to be confused with the highly-rated Burnley right-back, this Vitinho has an impressive career that’s gone somewhat under the radar.
The Brazilian forward has won state championships with Botafogo and Internacional, the Russian Premier League with CSKA Moscow and no fewer than nine trophies – including the Copa Libertadores – across his four years with Flamengo.
He also featured in the 2019 Club World Cup final as Liverpool beat Flamengo 1-0 in Qatar.
An eight-cap Germany international, Younes joined the Saudi Pro League club in January 2022 but was loaned out to FC Utrecht six months later.
The winger featured prominently in Ajax’s run to the Europa League final in 2016-17 and later won a Coppa Italia with Napoli.
Arguably the most recognisable name in this list, Quaison has been a regular international for Sweden since 2013.
The striker, 29, has experience in Europe’s major leagues with Palermo and Mainz. He moved to the Saudi Pro League in 2021 and has scored 13 goals in 47 appearances in the competition.
Robin Quaison lets rip from 30 yards! 😲
You don't save those! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/PHZqhCxLzi
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 25, 2019
Al-Ettifaq’s top scorer last term with nine league goals, Niakate has been turning out in Saudi Arabia since 2019.
He’s previously led the line for Al-Wehda and Al-Ittihad before moving to Al-Ettifaq last year.
The 30-year-old is eligible to represent France and Mali, but he doesn’t have any international caps at either youth or international level.