Liverpool’s performance against Atletico Madrid was significant for two fundamental reasons. Firstly, it was the team’s best performance since the 4-0 victory at Leicester City on Boxing Day. Secondly, and perhaps more urgently it typified just how indispensable Georginio Wijnaldum has become to Jurgen Klopp’s team.
The 29-year-old has been the German manager’s most trusted midfield general and a player who has proven the man for the big occasions. Wijnaldum has already clocked up 38 appearances in all competitions this season and has started all but one of Liverpool’s 29 Premier League matches this season.
Although Wijnaldum may not be one of Liverpool’s most obvious match-winners, he is certainly one of the most consistent players in the team.
This perhaps is why the confusion that currently surrounds the Dutchman’s contract negotiations are all the more alarming. Talks of Wijnaldum’s imminent Anfield future have been up in the air for the best part of 12 months and appear no closer to resolving.
Wijnaldum, at 29, is in a very tricky age of negotiation for Liverpool with the player not in the latter stages of his career but a midfielder who is by no means at an age that commands a lengthy price tag.
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Liverpool’s midfield set-up for some time now has been the position that even Klopp is still trying to find his favoured and most trusted trio.
Typically, the FIFA Coach of the Year has opted for a balance of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Wijnaldum but due to injuries and inconsistencies, the Liverpool boss has been forced to explore other possibilities.
There has also been talk of the club bringing in further ammunition to the team when the summer transfer window eventually takes place amid the recent global health crisis.
Kai Havertz or Denis Zakaria are a couple of names that have been thrown in the rumour mill and are two players that would certainly inject some attacking impetus to Liverpool’s midfield.
However, this by no means should lead to a scenario where Liverpool would even contemplate cashing in for Wijnaldum whose contract expires next season. Whether it means offering the former Newcastle United star a two or three-year extension on his current deal the club should do whatever it takes to keep Wijnadlum’s services at Anfield.
Wijnaldum’s numbers may not represent the indispensable criteria player we are currently categorising the midfielder in but against Atletico in midweek, the former PSV Eindhoven star showcased why he is more than just statistics and landmarks.
He is the embodiment of the project Klopp has created in his four-year stint with the Reds. One of the most selfless footballers in the team, Wijnaldum has truly bought into the German’s philosophy and has embraced what Klopp has created in terms of a team ethic.
Wijnaldum – who signed for £25m in 2016 [BBC Sport] – is also one of the most intelligent footballers in Klopp’s armoury. He possesses this rare effortless ability to use his elegant body frame to his advantage. The technique and balance used to glide past opponents and shield the ball is nothing short of sensational.
If there was a player for the big occasions Wijnaldum would be the last to hide-away. It can be difficult to shine in a world-conquering squad that features some of the continents best players but Wijnaldum has proven on numerous occasions that he himself is a force to be reckoned with and is someone who should be at the very top of Liverpool’s transfer priorities.