Georginio Wijnaldum to depart Liverpool?
Georginio Wijnaldum joined Liverpool in 2016, departing Newcastle for a fee in the region of £24m.
The Dutchman was often used in a more advanced role for the Magpies. However, under Jurgen Klopp, the 30-year-old was dropped into a slightly deeper role.
In turn, alongside Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, ‘Gini’ formed a devastating midfield trident which has proven absolutely essential to Liverpool’s success over recent seasons. It is no coincidence that the Reds have looked much poorer this term, with Henderson and Fabinho either out injured, or forced to deputise at centre-half.
Liverpool’s system under Klopp requires a lot of high pressing, with the midfielders expected to contribute equally at both ends of the pitch. However, players such as Thiago and Naby Keita are often unable to bring the same kind of energy and drive as the aforementioned trio.
So, Klopp will no doubt be desperate to have his reliable midfield trio back fit and playing together as soon as possible.
One problem with this, though, is that, at present, it looks as though Wijnaldum is heading for the Anfield exit door.
The former Newcastle man’s contract situation has been up in the air for some time now, with his current terms set to expire in the summer.
In turn, there have been a host of conflicting reports regarding what exactly is set to unfold.
Speculation last summer went as far as to suggest that the Premier League champions had no plans to offer Wijnaldum a new deal.
The Athletic then reported in December, though, that both Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool want to keep the Dutchman at Anfield.
Earlier this month, meanwhile, claims began to mount that Wijnaldum has agreed to the terms of a pre-contract with Spanish powerhouse, FC Barcelona.
Wijnaldum was drawn on such reports, but was keen to give little away:
“They will always talk about these things but as I’ve said on other occasions, I have no news still.”
“They say this in the media but I have no news. When there is I will talk about it, but there isn’t. I’m here now to talk about the games against Turkey, Latvia and Gibraltar.”
As such, though nothing has been made official yet, with each passing week, it looks more and more likely that Wijnaldum will depart Merseyside in the summer.
So, Liverpool will of course need to fill the void left by the 71-time capped international. And at 101, we have picked out four players who could indeed replace Wijnaldum.
The first player Liverpool should look to as a potential Gini replacement is Brighton and Mali standout, Yves Bissouma.
Bissouma joined Brighton in the summer of 2018, from French outfit Lille.
The Seagulls are understood to have paid around £15m to bring the midfielder to England.
Bissouma has since gone on to notch 87 appearances in all competitions for Graham Potter’s side. Across these outings, the 24-year-old has provided four goals and one assist.
Whilst such few goal contributions may put some fans off his potential addition, though, Bissouma is actually, on paper at least, an almost perfect fit for Klopp’s side.
As already mentioned, the midfielders who typically shine most at Liverpool are those capable of contributing equally at both ends of the pitch, and Bissouma does exactly that.
The 24-year-old is confident with the ball at his feet, more than capable of picking it up from deep and either taking players on, or picking out the right pass to a teammate. Bissouma is also a fairly progressive passer, generally avoiding the sideways option.
Then, at the other end of the pitch, the Malian displays an impressive work ethic to chase the ball down and win it back, something which players such as Thiago and Keita do not do as much of.
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) March 28, 2021
If Liverpool do indeed choose to target Bissouma, though, then they could face some stiff competition for signature, as both Leicester and Arsenal have been credited with an interest in his services of late – the former of whom look set to be able to offer the Brighton star Champions League football next term, unlike Liverpool.
The next player whom the Reds could target is Borussia Monchengladbach star, Denis Zakaria.
Of the four players on this list, Zakaria is perhaps the most defensively inclined, however he would still prove to be a quality replacement for Wijnaldum, and could also provide cover for Fabinho, amid the Brazilian’s struggles for fitness.
Zakaria joined Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2017, and has since gone on to firmly establish himself as a key cog in the club’s midfield.
The Swiss international is generally deployed alongside Florian Neuhaus, who is the more attack-minded of the duo.
However, Zakaria is still forward-thinking, with his passing ability second to none. In turn, if Liverpool utilised Zakaria and Fabinho as a deep-lying pairing, it would perhaps allow Thiago a bit more freedom to showcase his true talents.
Another plus to signing Zakaria is the fact that his current contract will have just one year left to run in the summer, meaning he would likely be available for a reduced fee.
Whilst Zakaria is the most defensive-minded player on this list, Fabian Ruiz is probably the most attack-minded option.
The Spaniard joined Napoli in 2018, departing Real Betis for a reported £27m.
And the 24-year-old has since cemented himself as one of Napoli’s standout stars, notching 117 appearances across all competitions for Gli Azzurri.
“FABIAN RUIZ SHOCKS SAN SIRO!”
What. A. Goal.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 12, 2020
Ruiz has formed a solid partnership with the more defensively sound Diego Demme at the base of Napoli’s midfield.
The former Betis man represents what most people think of when they imagine a Spanish central midfielder – an excellent passer over any distance, agile, with quick feet and good in tight spaces.
However, also like many Spanish midfielders – Thiago, Dani Ceballos, etc – Ruiz is not all that great when it comes to contributing in the defensive third.
The final player whom Liverpool should look to in their efforts to replace Wijnaldum is Renato Sanches.
Sanches came through the youth ranks of Portuguese powerhouse Benfica, and was once viewed as one of the world’s brightest young stars.
The now-23-year-old was named the Young Player of the Tournament at Euro 2016, earning him a huge move to Bayern Munich later the same year.
Sanches’ development stagnated somewhat after making the move to Germany, with fans of the English game no doubt remembering his pretty woeful spell on loan at Swansea, a stint which included the Portuguese infamously passing the ball to an advertising board.
Since his move to Lille in 2019, though, Sanches has managed to get back to his scintillating best, showcasing all of the key attributes of a typical box-to-box central midfielder.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) January 15, 2021
This article was edited by Conor Laird.
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