Since signing for Liverpool in 2016, Gini Wijnaldum has played a key role in a Liverpool side that has gone on to dominate English and European football.
A regular in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield, the Dutchman missed just one league game this season as the Reds swaggered to their 19th league title.
However, in recent weeks speculation has grown over the 29-year-old’s future as he is yet to put pen to paper on a new contract.
Wijnaldum’s current deal expires next summer but Liverpool will surely be keen to tie him down sooner rather than later in order to avoid an Emre Can style situation where he could be lost on a free.
While reports last month indicated Wijnaldum was close to signing on for a further three years, any sign of a new contract is yet to materialise.
This has lead to fans speculating whether or not we’ve seen the last of Wijnaldum, affectionately known as Gini amongst Reds’ faithful, in a Liverpool shirt.
With the club also continually being linked to Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago a midfielder would probably have to make way for the Spaniard if he was to come to Merseyside.
Making Wijnaldum the most likely candidate to leave if this does happen.
While Liverpool fans may well be excited by the potential arrival of someone as talented as Thiago, they may also be underestimating Wijnaldum’s role in the team. Over the last four years, he has missed just 11 Premier League matches playing 186 times in all competitions.
You don’t play this volume of games for a manager as demanding as Klopp if you aren’t excelling in your role.
Liverpool’s midfield is perhaps the most criticised position in the team with much of this aimed at Wijnaldum. The biggest censure levelled at Wijnaldum is that he doesn’t demonstrate the same level of creativity or goals for Liverpool as he does on the international scene for the Netherlands. In fact, ESPN recently pointed out that he’s now gone 72 appearances in a red shirt without registering an assist.
But to judge him purely on this basis is to seriously misunderstand his role in the team. It is no secret that Liverpool’s main attacking threat comes from wide areas. Both in the form of the front three and of course the fullbacks Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Wijnaldum’s functional positioning in the midfield allows Robertson to take up a much higher starting position. Therefore when Robertson makes those lung-bursting runs forward to join Mané it is vital that Wijnaldum covers the left-hand side of the pitch.
In short, Robertson would not be able to be anywhere near as effective without Wijnaldum in the team. Wijnaldum’s short passing ability is also superb and he often provides the balls into Robertson or Mané on the left flank which starts the attacks on those sides.
He may not be the flashiest player Liverpool have but none of the other midfielders in the team are able to perform this role anywhere near as well as Wijnadum.
It is also fair to say that he’s contributed to a number of big moments in the club’s history particularly the brace he scored in last year’s remarkable 4-0 Champions League semi-final comeback over Barcelona.
At the age of 29, there is often a temptation to write players off thinking their best days are behind them. But in Wijnaldum’s case, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. If he was to leave, any midfielder following him would have to quickly adapt to a role that plays such an integral part to Liverpool’s entire system.
It would be no easy task and so Liverpool’s most important signing of the summer may just be tying down Gini Wijnaldum to three more years.