Georginio Wijnaldum was world-class for the Netherlands in their dramatic group-stage opener against Ukraine and he will be missed at Liverpool.
He secured a free agent move to PSG last week, where he will reportedly make £160,000/week and he has just shown why the Ligue 1 giants are willing to pay him so lavishly.
The former Liverpool midfielder scored the opener in his country’s first EURO 2021 game and was immense throughout the game, pressing high up the pitch, covering for Frenkie De Jong and being the leader Holland needed without Virgil van Dijk.
“Unsung hero. People talk about all the great players Liverpool have and he very rarely gets a mention,” Gary Neville told ITV Sport, via the Mirror.
“I think he’ll be badly missed next season, very difficult to replace him at Liverpool. He’s one of those players that keeps things ticking. You don’t look at him and think he’s doing anything outstandingly well, but I would imagine his teammates respect him enormously because he covers a lot of areas on the pitch.
“He does things simply for his teammates, he’s an unselfish player and he’s an important player for this Dutch team.”
Gary Neville is spot on but it’s not fair to compare his role for the Netherlands to the role he had at Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp tasked him with a very conservative role which meant he made very few lung-busting runs to get up with his attacking teammates but instead was stationed outside the box to help prevent counter-attacks.
That said, he was world-class in that role even if a lot of his hard work went unnoticed given the nature of it.
What will be missed most is his availability.
He never gets injured and that’s arguably the most underrated trait of a world-class player.
Last night against Ukraine, Wijnaldum was still harrying defenders and putting pressure on them in the 90th minute coming off the back of a 51-game season at club level for Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp will need to be very selective with who he signs this season as Henderson, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain all have worrisome injury records that could cost the Reds if they all get injured at the same time.
I think the worst of Keita’s injury hassles are behind him but only time will tell if my suspicions are correct.
Having him fit will help Liverpool cover the loss of Wijnaldum but it seems highly unlikely that Klopp will be able to find a player exactly like the Dutchman.
He goes down as a Liverpool legend in my books and not just for his two goals against the mighty Barcelona to send his side to the Champions League final but also for his goal to send them to the Champions League in the first place as he scored the winner against Middlesbrough in 2017.
He was crucial in Liverpool winning the Premier League on 99 points and deserves his big payday in Paris where he will play alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.