The January transfer window is open and with only 6 months left on his contract, Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum is free to speak with clubs outside England and sign a pre-contract.
Liverpool tied down almost all of their key players to long term deals during the past couple of seasons, but Wijnaldum, who moved to Merseyside from Newcastle United in the summer of 2016, didn’t sign an extension. The 30-year-old still has an offer on the table from Liverpool but the club and the Dutchman aren’t on the same page in terms of the wages and contract length and he is likely to reject it.
Why keep him?
Since his move from Newcastle, Wijnaldum has been a key figure at the club and has largely contributed to the club’s great success in the last couple of seasons which saw them win the champions league, super cup, club world cup and the elusive premier league trophy.
Wijnaldum averages around 3500 minutes of game times across the last 4 seasons. Availability is one of his best qualities and while Liverpool were plagued with injuries in midfield at various points in the recent seasons, the 30-year-old was one of the players Jurgen Klopp could rely on.
The Dutchman is Liverpool’s fourth choice captain and is an important part of Jurgen Klopp’s 4-3-3 system. Wijnaldum’s energy, press resistance and ability to block passing lines are underrated. He has also done a good job as the holding midfielder when the team wanted him to.
He takes up a more attacking role in his national side and that is testament to his versatility and tactical astuteness. The Dutchman has also scored some very important goals for his side, the brace against Barcelona being the obvious ones.
Why let him go?
2 months into the next season, Wijnaldum will turn 31, and along with him, 7 of Liverpool’s key players will be moving to their last 3-4 seasons at the very top level of European football. Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Virgil Van Dijk, Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip will all be 29 or above at the beginning of the next campaign.
You would feel this is the time for Jurgen Klopp to start the rebuild of the squad and though Wijnaldum is an important player in the current system, Liverpool could very well move to a formation that involves more build-up through the centre and reduces the dependency of the full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. The arrival of Thiago in the summer points to that transition and a number 8 with better technical ability than Wijnaldum and club captain, Jordan Henderson could be the next big arrival.
On the financial side of things, Liverpool are one of the best-run clubs in Europe and one of the contributing factors is their wage structure. It is heavily based on incentives and bonuses. For Liverpool, it doesn’t make sense financially to commit a lot of money to a 30-year-old midfielder for 3 or 4 more seasons.
What could happen?
Liverpool and Wijnaldum seem unlikely to reach an agreement before his contract expires and this could be the Dutchman’s last season In Merseyside.
Wijnaldum will have plenty of suitors across Europe and as a free agent, a lucrative signing-bonus and wage package is a certainty for him at his next club. The possibility of playing in a different league and a new challenge is surely exciting.
As for Liverpool, this summer could mark the beginning of their squad rebuild and a younger and better central midfielder will possibly replace him in the club roster.
In any case, Wijnaldum will be leaving Liverpool as a legend, having etched his name in the club folklore as a pivotal part of Klopp’s Red dynasty.