As Georginio Wijnaldum’s contract at Liverpool draws closer to expiry, The Hard Tackle takes a look at three potential summer destinations for the Dutchman.
He may not always be in the limelight but one cannot deny that Georginio Wijnaldum has been an important cog in Jurgen Klopp’s successful Liverpool team in recent years.
Having joined the Reds in the summer of 2016, following a relegation campaign with Newcastle United, the Dutchman did not take long to endear himself to fans, setting up a goal on his Premier League debut for his new club in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Arsenal.
Since then, it has been no looking back for the 30-year-old, who game after game, has proven his importance to the team with the industry and the work-rate he brings to the table in the middle of the park, coupled with his ability to contribute with vital goals every now and then – no Liverpool fan will forget his double in that historic comeback against Barcelona on their way to the Champions League triumph in 2018/19.
So far in his stint at Anfield, Wijnaldum has made 221 appearances for Liverpool, bagging 22 goals and 16 assists in the process. The Dutchman is the third-most used player by Klopp throughout his Liverpool tenure with only Roberto Firmino (272) and James Milner (229) making more appearances under the German tactician for the Merseysiders.
However, as the end of the season approaches, concerns over the future of Wijnaldum at Liverpool continue to grow. That is because the 30-year-old Netherlands international is in the final few months of his contract, which will run out in the summer, making him a free agent.
There have been rumblings over his future since the last summer itself, with Liverpool having to fend off interest from La Liga giants Barcelona. And given his quality, there is unlikely to be any shortage of suitors for the midfielder, with contract negotiations with Liverpool having failed to progress as planned.
With Wijnaldum seemingly primed for a new journey in his career, The Hard Tackle takes a look at three clubs where he could end up next season, on a free transfer.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Barcelona have been linked with a move for Georginio Wijnaldum ever since Ronald Koeman took over the reins of the club last year. As mentioned previously, Liverpool had to stave off the Catalans’ overtures in the summer but the rumours of interest refuse to die down. And, a potential transfer to Camp Nou ahead of next season, could suit both parties very well.
The Catalans haven’t made the most memorable of starts under Koeman but have shown signs of stability in recent weeks, even though their hopes of winning a trophy dangle by a thread. Having lost some experienced members of the club’s midfield unit like Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal last summer, adding Wijnaldum could work in Barcelona’s favours.
First off, the 30-year-old has worked with Koeman during the latter’s time as the Netherlands manager and is accustomed to the tactics and philosophies of the Barcelona boss, meaning the period of adaptation should not be a long one. Secondly, Wijnaldum would add a lot of experience to the side having been a key part of an all-conquering Liverpool side and knowing what it takes to succeed at the biggest of stages.
The fact that he has shown that he can play as a No. 6 or as a No. 8 would come in very handy for Liverpool given as Sergio Busquets isn’t getting any younger while Miralem Pjanic has failed to make the desired impact since joining in the summer.
A solid operator with impressive work-rate all the while being an effective ball-carrier and possessing an eye for a goal, Wijnaldum would provide a different flavour to Barcelona’s midfield unit. And the fact that he will cost nothing in transfer fees should further appeal to Barcelona given their current financial plight.
Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan finally look set to end Juventus’ monopoly in Serie A this season and for them to be able to sustain this level and build on it next season, making vital additions in the summer transfer market would become critical. And midfield is an area where the Nerazzurri would want to add more quality as they look to re-establish themselves as the superpowers of Italian football.
Indeed, beyond Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic, there isn’t much quality in central midfield at Conte’s disposal. Roberto Gagliardini for all his positive attributes, often lacks the quality needed to play for a club challenging for the title while Stefano Sensi has endured an injury-riddled campaign, hardly taking the field.
With Matias Vecino seemingly not in the manager’s plans and Arturo Vidal failing to make the kind of impact expected when he joined last summer, going for someone like Wijnaldum, who the Nerazzurri are tracking according to a recent report from FC Inter News, would be a shrewd move.
Given his box-to-box qualities, Wijnaldum should be able to slot right into the Inter Milan midfield unit alongside Barella and Brozovic. He would be able to provide defensive cover when not in possession and his ability to drive the team forward when on the ball would also take some pressure off of Barella to be the primary ball-carrier for the Nerazzuri.
From the player’s perspective, playing for an esteemed club like Inter Milan, under a coach of Conte’s capabilities and accomplishments would be a huge draw. Add to that, if the aforementioned report is to be believed, the Serie A giants are willing to offer him his desired four-year contract as well, while the presence of Netherlands teammate Stefan de Vrij could help in acclimatising to his new surroundings.
According to a report from Spanish publication AS (h/t Calciomercato), Juventus, too, have entered the race to sign Wijnaldum once his deal expires and a transfer to Turin for the Liverpool midfielder could be an ideal move for both parties involved.
Juventus, much like Barcelona, have had a few missteps under their new manager in Andrea Pirlo. Having lost Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira, the midfield unit could do with the addition of an experienced head like Wijnaldum, who has the know-how of performing at the grandest of occasions.
Weston McKennie has made an instant impact since arriving in the summer and there are talks of his loan move set to be converted into a permanent deal while Arthur Melo has done well too. However, the latter has largely been used in wide areas by Pirlo.
Rodrigo Bentancur, for all his promise, has failed to step up this season, while the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot still seem to be finding their feet almost two years into their spells at the Allianz Stadium. And with the Bianconeri open to the prospect of selling Ramsey in the summer, it would open up a slot in their midfield unit for Wijnaldum to fill in.
The Dutchman, at 30, still has plenty left to offer at the highest level, and his proven pedigree at the highest level would add much value to this Juventus side. And, once again, the Old Lady will stand to make a top-notch signing on a free transfer, continuing the trend from recent years.