Max Morland questions whether or not it was necessary for Liverpool to spend £25 million on Georginio Wijnaldum given the squad’s serious lack of quality at both left back and defensive midfield.
After Liverpool splashed out £25 million to secure the services of Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle last month, many fans praised the club for being more adventurous and decisive in the transfer market. However, amongst the supporters praising the signing, there were some fans who believed that the Reds could have spent the money more wisely, perhaps on a replacement for the under-fire left back Alberto Moreno, or a recognised defensive midfield player.
Upon signing for Newcastle from PSV Eindhoven last year, Wijnaldum was regarded by fans of the club as someone who would lift them from their close encounter with relegation the previous season, to the safety and stability of mid-table. However, as fans of the club will reluctantly tell you, things didn’t exactly go to plan and, along with his under-performing Newcastle teammates, Wijnaldum was relegated to the Championship.
The Dutchman’s ultimate failure to lift his team out of the relegation fight surely begs the question: what did Wijnaldum do to justify an increase from the £14.5 million Newcastle paid for him in 2015, to the £25 million sum in this summer’s transfer window?
Newcastle, who had just appointed Steve McLaren as manager, bought Wijnaldum fresh from captaining PSV to consecutive Eredivisie titles and was among the star players in the hugely successful squad. However, unlike many promising players recently, the Dutchman waited before making his move to the Premier League, instead preferring to gain experience and a greater knowledge of the game while remaining in Holland.
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Wijnaldum’s decision to stay with PSV is a good indicator of his fantastic professionalism and mental attitude. Choosing to move to the Premier League would have put the 25-year-old under an intense spotlight and he would have been highly pressurised by fans and the media to hit the ground running and perform right from the word go. As illustrated by Manchester United flop Memphis Depay, this can sometimes be too much pressure for young shoulders to handle, and like Depay, Wijnaldum’s career could have taken a downward path should things not have gone to plan.
Fortunately, Wijnaldum chose carefully and wisely to remain in Holland to continue in the development of his career until he deemed himself ready to make the transfer to the Premier League.
In his one and only season at Newcastle, Wijnaldum scored 11 goals, and, although this would have normally been considered a fairly impressive tally in a relegated side, and especially for a midfielder, many Newcastle fans believed that their number 5 could have provided an even bigger contribution. 4 of these 11 goals came in a 6-2 mauling of fellow strugglers Norwich in October, and incredibly, every one of the Dutchman’s Premier League goals came at St. James’ Park.
At Liverpool, competition for places means that Wijnaldum will likely get less playing time, and as has been illustrated in the opening 3 matches of the season, he may be forced to play slightly out of his preferred attacking midfield position to accommodate the wealth of talent the Reds have in that area of the pitch. There are arguably 3 players who, at the very least compete with Wijnaldum for the ‘number 10’ role, with Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana all staking a claim for a starting role.
On the other hand, the fact that Wijnaldum is versatile could make him an ideal player for the squad, as he is able to fill in both in central midfield and in positions higher up the pitch when needed- the former Feyenoord player has claimed in the past that he is also happy to play on both sides of the pitch, which will be an added bonus for Klopp, who currently has only Sadio Mane, another notable summer signing, at his disposal to play on either wing.
In conclusion, while Wijnaldum’s quality, versatility and mindset cannot be doubted, the current situation at Liverpool has left many fans questioning whether purchasing either a new left back (to replace the much criticised Alberto Moreno) or a recognised defensive midfielder would have been a better use of the money spent on the Dutchman. In addition, the fee of £25 million is a very large sum for a player who was relegated without performing up to the levels of what were expected of him.
However, if the 25-year-old is to prove his worth and show the talent which he possesses, the fee could be seen as a bargain in the future, with the money currently in the Premier League. Wijnaldum has potential and talent in bucket loads, and if he demonstrates these capabilities in his performances, he could be featured as a key player in this campaign and the seasons to come.