Former Chelsea and England football legend John Terry is set to take up a new role as sporting director at Saudi Arabian club Al-Shabab, according to recent reports.
In what marks a major career move, Terry will be leaving Europe for the first time to join the Saudi Pro League strugglers on a short-term basis, following his former England teammate Steven Gerrard.
Terry is said to have declined an offer to become Al-Shabab’s new manager, instead he will take on a senior advisory position to help overhaul football operations at the club.
Terry’s impending appointment comes amidst the sudden rise of Saudi football, with heavy investment leading to concerns from major European leagues about competition for players and coaches.
However, the kingdom’s football growth has not been without controversy. Saudi Arabia has faced allegations of “sportswashing” – using football’s popularity to improve its global image and distract from its human rights record.
Last week Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said he does not care about allegations of “sportswashing” against the kingdom and that he will continue funding sport if it adds to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“If sportswashing [is] going to increase my GDP by 1%, then we’ll continue doing sportswashing,” the crown prince told Fox News.
Terry’s appointment to Al-Shabab will likely prompt renewed accusations of sportswashing against Riyadh. However, it also reflects the growing links between English and Saudi football, as more English figures take on roles in the kingdom. Since Cristiano Ronaldo’s headline-grabbing transfer to Al Nassr, Saudi clubs have signed several high-profile players like Neymar, signalling the league’s rising ambition and appeal.
While concerns persist, Terry’s move shows how Premier League experience is increasingly valued in Saudi football. Terry departs Chelsea’s academy setup, where he has worked since retiring, with the club’s blessing – a mark of respect for his legendary status there.
While Terry is yet to land a managerial role, this high-profile Saudi opportunity represents a major chance to shape a club off the pitch.