The confirmation of Gini Wijnaldum’s departure from Anfield has not only deflated the Liverpool fans but left a gaping big hole in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI for the new season.
Wijnaldum – who was one of Klopp’s first signings at Anfield – became a mainstay within the Liverpool squad and helped the Merseyside club become European and Premier League champions.
However, Wijnaldum decided to sign a three-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain after his contract at Liverpool expired in June, insisting he was not fully appreciated at Anfield. Wijnaldum’s departure will be sorely felt as his versatility, confidence, availability and experience have been vital to the squad over the past five years.
Additionally, Liverpool’s midfield may take another hit as Jordan Henderson’s future at Anfield is looking increasingly uncertain. The club captain has two years remaining on his current contract – which he signed in 2018 – but negotiations over an extension have stalled.
Therefore, Liverpool must look at potential replacements for both Wijnaldum and Henderson this summer as they look to reclaim their 2019-2020 title as Premier League champions next season.
These are the outstanding candidates to fill those very big boots…
Liverpool must replace Gini Wijnaldum (right), who has signed for Paris Saint-Germain
They may also look to replace their club captain Jordan Henderson (above) this summer
Youri Tielemans is a box-to-box midfielder that sets the tempo for Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester side. His presence in the middle of the park has caught the attention of several Premier League giants this summer but it is Liverpool who are hoping to acquire his signature.
The Merseyside club have been long-term admirers of Tielemans and were among those hoping to sign him from Anderlecht in 2017. Liverpool manager Klopp has also expressed his admiration for the 23-year-old in the past – having praised the youngster for his contribution at Leicester.
Tielemans is a box-to-box midfielder that sets the tempo for Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester side
Tielemans’ presence in midfield has caught the attention of several Premier League giants
The Reds boss believes Tielemans could be the perfect replacement for Wijnaldum as he is a ‘controlling midfielder’ than can influence the game in a number of ways.
He is not only effective at maintaining possession and optimising space around himself, but he is also a threat going forwards. His vision and passing ability are a credit to his style of play. He is able to exploit the gaps in the opposition’s defence and link the defence to the attack.
Tielemans is also regarded as a goal-scoring threat – having the ability to strike off either foot from distance. While his spatial awareness and composure on the ball allow him to stay calm in high-pressure situations and execute his role consistently.
Tielemans’ impact at Leicester can be supported through last season’s statistics as he had the second-most touches per 90 of any player over 1000 minutes at 76.5. He also became the most passed to player in the squad.
As a result, Tielemans is regarded as the fans’ favourite to replace Wijnaldum at Liverpool this summer.
The Liverpool manager believes Tielemans could be the perfect replacement for Wijnaldum as he is a ‘controlling midfielder’ than can influence the game in a number of ways
Houssem Aouar is regarded as one of the most successful players to have emerged from the Lyon academy. His performances for the club’s first XI have caught the attention of several Premier League giants.
The 22-year-old was in talks with Arsenal over a potential move to North London last season. However, he decided to stay in France – resulting in Mikel Arteta’s deadline day signing of Thomas Partey.
Aouar is one of the most successful players to have emerged from the Lyon academy
He was in talks with Arsenal over a potential move to North London last season. However, he decided to stay in France – resulting in Mikel Arteta’s deadline day signing of Thomas Partey
Now Aouar is on Jurgen Klopp’s radar as he looks to fill the void left by Wijnaldum in his midfield. The Liverpool manager believes Aouar would be a good fit given his impressive passing range, ball control and dribbling ability.
Aouar’s ability to occupy goal-scoring positions also make him an enticing prospect for Liverpool. The 22-year-old provides on average 1.13 shots on target and 3.56 shots per 90 minutes.
Given his confidence in shooting, Aouar has established himself as one of the best open play goal-scoring midfielders in Europe. He currently tops the charts out of all midfielders (who have played a minimum of 1350 minutes) in Europe’s top five leagues for non-penalty expected goals per 90 minutes.
His expected goals per 90 rate of 0.44 registers a greater return than that of Curtis Jones, Wijnaldum, Thiago Alcantara, James Milner and Naby Keita combined.
Additionally, Aouar’s unquestionable desire to defend has also made him an attractive option for Klopp.
The 22-year-old attempts on average 2.6 tackles per 90 minutes and succeeds in around 64 per cent of them. He also transitions from an attacking mindset to a defensive one seamlessly.
Therefore, Liverpool could look to sign the Frenchman this summer.
Aouar’s ability to occupy goal-scoring positions also make him an enticing for Liverpool. The 22-year-old provides on average 1.13 shots on target and 3.56 shots per 90 minutes
Club: AC Milan
Nationality: Ivory Coast
Liverpool are interested in moving for AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie. However, they could face stiff competition for his signature after his impressive goal return in the 2020-2021 season established him as one of the most sought-after players this summer.
Stefano Pioli opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation more often than not last season and chose to deploy Kessie as one of the two pivots in front of the defence. This allowed Kessie to flourish in Serie A.
Liverpool are interested in moving for AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie (right) this summer
The 24-year-old is currently out in Tokyo playing in the Olympic Games with the Ivory Coast
The 24-year-old was able to break lines, play forwards and score goals, while also maintaining a defensive presence for Milan. As a result, Kessie scored a remarkable 14 goals across all competitions last season – trumping Wijnaldum’s tally of two.
Therefore, Kessie could bring additional firepower to Klopp’s side – who scored just 68 goals compared to Manchester City’s 83 last term – and become instrumental in their attacking philosophy.
Kessie would also be a good signing for Liverpool as he is robust enough to avoid adding to Liverpool’s injury woes.
In what had been an unprecedented year of football thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – many footballers were ruled out injured due to a limited pre-season and a hectic schedule. However, Kessie hardly missed a game.
Kessie recorded the most minutes played by any outfield player for AC Milan during the 2020-2021 season. Theo Hernandez was next in line but managed close to 300 minutes less than the 24-year-old.
Therefore, Kessie – who is currently in Tokyo playing for the Ivory Coast at the Olympic Games – could be the one to carry Liverpool’s midfield should they sustain any injuries over the next year or so.
Kessie (R) is set to enter the final 12 months of his San Siro contract and his future is uncertain
Kessie could bring additional fire power to Klopp’s side after scoring 14 goals last season
Club: Atletico Madrid
Saul Niguez is a 26-year-old central midfielder that has a huge engine and an incredible work rate. His versatility would also prove to be invaluable at Liverpool.
Saul’s preferred position is on the left side of the pitch as he has a strong left foot. However, he can play in a range of positions, including the midfield, the forward line or at full-back.
Saul is known for his ability to find and exploit space but it is his decision making that allows him to do so. The 26-year-old strikes the perfect balance between passing and driving himself.
Saul’s distribution also allows him to play passes all over the park. However, it is his ability to play quick, connected football in tight spaces that makes him a standout player for Liverpool.
Saul Niguez is a 26-year-old midfielder that has a huge engine and an incredible work rate