They may only be January murmurs but Liverpool fans should be suitably troubled by any talk linking their Dutch midfielder Gini Wijnaldum with an Anfield exit.
The 29-year-old is one of the few senior players in Jurgen Klopp’s side to have not had his contract renewed in recent months and this potential situation has given way to open speculation about whether the Netherlands international will be allowed to leave in the summer for what would likely be a reasonable sum before his contract runs out in 18 months.
Mere speculation it may be, however, the ebbing tenure of Wijnaldum’s contract must be suitably addressed by the Liverpool hierarchy in the near future as a priority.
A glance at the Dutchman’s record during his time at Anfield may hint at a shortage of goals and assists especially in comparison to the 11 goals he notched during his one and only season at St James’s Park or his return of 18 in 62 caps for his country and yet you will seldom hear Liverpool fans grumbling about any of this.
His influence in Klopp’s high pressing machine is undeniable. Since the start of last season, the Red’s number five has recovered possession a whopping 294 times in 54 Premier League matches. Coupled with 36 interceptions and 59 tackles, his importance speaks for itself.
His instinctive reading of the game, natural athleticism and technical quality make him the perfect pressing enforcer from midfield,
Like his regular cockpit partner, Jordan Henderson, the Dutchman so often sacrifices the more attacking instincts of his game for the greater good of Liverpool’s master plan.
However, the goals he has notched for the club have frequently been in the big matches such as his famous brace against Barcelona in the Champions League and a powerful header against Manchester City a couple of seasons ago.
Such a handy habit more than hints at that oh so important big-game mentality, a vital trait when you are competing at the very highest levels. Wijnaldum’s gritty determination is further underscored by the tremendous staying power he has displayed.
For sure there are more stellar headliners in Klopp’s current ranks and a host of midfielders have arrived for big money since the Dutchman swapped Tyneside for Merseyside in 2016, but still the Netherlands international remains a stalwart and one of the first names on the team sheet in so many crucial clashes.
Injuries to key personnel have had a habit of playing into the Dutchman’s hands at times, such as the serious injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in 2018, but for him to have regained his first-team status in this team despite the presence of so many expensive imports is a testament to his quality, work rate and overall consistency in a Red shirt.
Liverpool would be able to command a tidy sum should they opt to cash in on the midfielder who turns 30 later this year, however, they would be trading in a man well versed in their high pressing methodology.
Such a player would need replacing with a midfielder who may well need some time to acclimatize to the demanding work rates that have become the expectation at Anfield. Whether they would have time for such a passenger in the ranks is not an ideal question to be considering in their long term planning.
Regardless of whether or not this recent speculation is yet another product of the winter transfer window silly season; Liverpool would do well to get their negotiating hats on once more and tie-down another hugely important player to a long term future on Merseyside before another club wises up and robs them of a quality servant.
After a depleted and youthful Liverpool side dumped Everton out of the FA Cup last weekend Klopp stated: “If you want to be a Liverpool player, you have to respect the principles of this club. We cannot always play the best football in the world but we can fight like nobody else. And as long as we use our principles, we will be a difficult opponent to play against.”
Wijnadum may be a player who often sits under the radar and is denied the praise of some of his peers, although there can be no doubt that he has passed virtually every test put before him and in doing so, embodied those guiding principles spoken of by Klopp.
His quality, mentality and work rate have helped to deliver stellar success for the Reds and his Anfield journey should be nowhere near what would be a premature and unsatisfying end.