Opinion: £25 million midfielder should go down as a Liverpool legend

With Georginio Wijnaldum set to leave Liverpool, the midfielder deserves the best wishes of everyone involved with the club.

The Dutchman was seen as something of an underwhelming signing. Coming from a relegated Newcastle, supporters wanted higher profile signatures. However, the impact he made on Liverpool’s midfield has been a huge part of the Reds’ recent success.

In his first season at Anfield, he scored a number of vital goals as an attacking midfielder.

Whether that be his winning header against Manchester City, or a finish against Middlesbrough to help secure a top-four finish, he was there when needed.

MADRID, SPAIN – JUNE 1: Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool FC, celebrates the victory with the trophy during the UEFA Champions League match between Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano on June 1, 2019 in Madrid Spain (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)

As he moved further through his Liverpool career though, his role began to change. As Jurgen Klopp started to rely on his full-backs to create, Wijnaldum’s less spectacular attributes came to the fore.

Few midfielders in England look after the ball as well as the Dutchman. So he became tasked with recycling possession and controlling the tempo for the Reds.

With Andrew Robertson flying past him like a red arrow, it’s been Wijnaldum’s job to cover his marauding left-back. Disciplined both on and off the ball, he brings a sense of controlling bass to Jurgen Klopp’s heavy metal style football.

Without this sort of steadying presence provided by Wijnaldum and his midfield partner Jordan Henderson, Klopp’s midfield can look disjointed.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 28: Andy Robertson of Liverpool celebrates with teammates after scoring his sides second goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on September 28, 2020 in Liverpool, England (Photo by Jason Cairnduff – Pool/Getty Images)

However, for all of his tactical acumen, and restraint, Wijnaldum’s greatest Anfield match was all about his attacking traits. Benched for the return leg in Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in 2019, he sat angrily waiting for the off.

Then, in what seemed like a potentially terrible blow for Liverpool, Andy Robertson had to come off. Wijnaldum entered the fray in his place. Little did 53,000 Reds know what they were about to witness.

The first was a goal reminiscent of Steven Gerrard before him. A deflected cross from Trent-Alexander-Arnold came into his path and the Dutch midfielder met it with too much power for Marc André Ter-Stegen to keep out. Then came his moment, the moment that will forever define the Dutchman’s Anfield legacy.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 27: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal with Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield on February 27, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Xherdan Shaqiri, another signing from a relegated club, picked the ball up on the left-hand side. With a quick look up, he saw his options and gambled on a cross.

Gerard Pique is a full eight inches taller than Wijnaldum, but the midfielder flew high above the centre-back and flashed his header into the net.

Cue bedlam.

From there of course, there, things were only going to get better. A European, English, and world champion, Wijnaldum was key to all the successes to come.

Then this season, he has been one of the few constants. As his midfield partners fell around him, and with disaster taking place behind him, he was the metronome. The one constant in a turbulent team.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – MAY 07: Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool scores their third goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield on May 07, 2019 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images)

For all of the recent criticism of him, it’s doubtful that Liverpool would be in a position to finish in the top four without him. Now he’ll move to another European giant, and continue a storied career.

However, there should be no bitterness over the move. For everything he’s done, he should be remembered fondly, and always be welcome at Anfield.

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