Atletico Madrid defender Azpilicueta out indefinitely with injured knee

Atletico Madrid defender Azpilicueta out indefinitely with injured knee
Atletico Madrid defender Azpilicueta out indefinitely with injured knee

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: The Roshn Saudi League side Al-Ettifaq have extended the contract of Steven Gerrard to coach the first team until 2027.

The former Liverpool star was initially appointed for a two-year period in July 2023, but has been rewarded with a two-year extension, with an option to renew in 2027, a media statement said on Thursday.

The move follows significant progress in terms of the club’s overall foundations and technical capabilities, with major steps taken toward long-term and sustainable success.

Al-Ettifaq’s President Samer Al-Misehal said: “As a club we know where we want to go and we know we want Gerrard to lead us on the journey ahead.

“There are no shortcuts to success and Gerrard’s personal work ethic, his leadership qualities and his commitment to the project have shown everyone at the club just what it will take to compete at the highest level.

“We have a proud history and I believe we are now on the right path to return to former glories. We just have to keep going step by step. Steven will be given time and resources to continue on this journey and build something special.”

Gerrard said: “This is very pleasing for myself and my family and feels like recognition for a lot of hard work and commitment.

“We knew at the beginning this was a big job and a challenging job. We had to put in place new infrastructure like building a new training ground in phases, and building a new stadium.

“But a lot has been achieved. It’s a relationship with me and the management team above me that’s growing, that’s building, it’s getting stronger, and I’m really looking forward to the future.”

Gerrard’s arrival in the summer coincided with the appointment of Al-Misehal, and since then both have shared the same vision for the club, working hand in hand to make a number of fundamental improvements, including overseeing the move to a new stadium, securing new training facilities, and opening a physical conditioning center.

As a further sign of progress, the club have also secured the services of a number of impressive additions, building a formidable coaching team that includes senior staff members such as Mark Allen, former director of football at Rangers, and Thomas Spring, previously at Bournemouth, as chief scout.

Speaking about his time in Saudi, Gerrard said: “I’d never been to Saudi Arabia before, and it’s been the complete opposite of the perception that I had before.

“Since I’ve arrived, I’ve had an incredible welcome. My family has been all in, in terms of embracing the new adventure, a new challenge. We wanted to make the most of this and the family have settled extremely well.

“The easy decision would have been to stay in Liverpool, to wait for jobs, but as a family we decided we wanted something a little bit outside the box. I’ve learned about adapting to a new culture, a new league, making new friends, facing new challenges.”

Gerrard was also quick to highlight how the SPL is unique in terms of player acquisitions and the support the league has provided.

He added: “(The) SPL is very competitive. It’s got some outstanding players and coaches. They know they’re not in the top five leagues in the world, but they’re determined to get as close as they can be.”

Al-Ettifaq are set to play three friendly fixtures during the winter break while at camp in the UAE before returning to competitive action in the SPL against Al-Khaleej in February.

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