When you think of big-game players, the first few names that spring to mind would typically be the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Fabinho has also staked a claim for one of Liverpool’s best performers this season.
However, one player who is consistently underlooked in the big matches is Gini Wijnaldum. The Netherland’s international once again produced another flawless performance in the 3-1 victory over champions Manchester City.
Wijnaldum, 29, celebrated his birthday on Monday in some style as the European champions put Pep Guardiola’s City to the sword. The midfield were particularly instrumental in securing the Red’s 11th victory of the season to extend their lead at the Premier League summit to eight points.
The former Newcastle midfielder vindicated Jurgen Klopp’s decision to keep the Dutchman in Liverpool’s starting XI despite the recent irresistible form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Wijnaldum showcased why the big matches are his bread and butter setting the tone in midfield. The former Feyenoord midfielder was utterly dazzling in the middle of the part with his elegant link-up play. Despite being up against some of the best midfielders in Europe, the Red’s No.5 held his own and some to keep Liverpool on track of their pursuit of the Holy Grail.
It’s increasingly baffling to see why the former PSV star is still not considered an obvious choice when everything is on the line for Klopp and his team.
Rewind to May, the Champions League semi-final second-leg, Liverpool are trailing by two goals to Barcelona at half time. Introduce Wijnaldum to the equation and he scores two goals in two minutes to put the Reds on level terms with the five-time European holders.
After firing a brace in arguably Anfield’s greatest ever performance there was never going got be a greater high for the Liverpool midfielder.
However, he has also produced some big moments even in his debut season as a Red, scoring crucial goals against Arsenal, City and Middlesborough to secure Champions League football back in 2017 for the first time in three years.
Sadly for players like Wijnaldum, their work goes under the radar. His work rate and importance to Liverpool can seem intangible at times as his qualities are not what personifies your typical midfielder.
Despite this, Wijnaldum has shown time after time that he is one of the most reliable players at Klopp’s disposal and to look at how far the former Sparta youth prospect has come since relegation from the Premier League in 2016, is nothing short of miraculous.