He was the star in one of Anfield’s most famous European nights, an ever-present in Jurgen Klopp’s Champions League and Premier League winning teams and is admired by Europe’s elite sides.
So why has Georginio Wijnaldum been allowed to drift into the final 12 months of his Liverpool contract?
There isn’t much they have got wrong at Anfield in the transfer market during Klopp’s Anfield era. Barcelona, who are keeping a close eye on Wijnaldum’s situation, can attest to that as well as anyone.
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum is now in the final 12 months of his Anfield contract
The midfielder has been a key man at Anfield since joining from Newcastle in 2016
Ronald Koeman, the Barcelona boss, has reportedly asked Wijnaldum not to sign a new deal
Liverpool inserted a cunning clause into the £146m sale of Philippe Coutinho in 2018, meaning if Barcelona buy a Liverpool player between then and 2021, they must pay a £100m premium.
Fast forward two years and over at the Nou Camp, Ronald Koeman is sifting through the rubble he has inherited after finally landing the one job he has truly pined for. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
With no time to lose, Koeman has spoken with a disenchanted Lionel Messi about his future while plotting how to inject fresh impetus into a beleaguered squad after their 8-2 humbling by Bayern Munich.
And according to Dutch outlet AD, Koeman has already contacted Wijnaldum, a player he knows all about from the Dutch national squad, to tell him not to sign a new contract with a view to swooping on a free next year.
But as it stands, Koeman might not have too much to worry about. Sky Sports reported earlier in August that Wijnaldum’s representatives are still waiting for Liverpool to open talks regarding an extension.
It is curious how that is the case. Wijnaldum spearheaded Liverpool’s sensational 4-0 comeback victory in the 2019 Champions League semi-final at Anfield with two second-half goals. He was a half-time substitute and completely galvanised a Liverpool team who had played well, but only a had a slender 1-0 lead at the time, in pursuit of a four-goal lead.
Wijnaldum’s finest night in a Liverpool shirt came in the 4-0 victory over Barcelona at Anfield
Wijnaldum came off the bench and scored twice in two minutes, including a stunning header
Soon after that victory, Wijnaldum and Liverpool were crowned Champions League winners
People are perhaps quicker to remember Trent Alexander-Arnold’s snappy corner in the second half for Divock Origi’s goal or Andy Robertson ruffling Lionel Messi’s feathers but Wijnaldum was magnificent on the night.
His first goal, a first-time strike that had too much venom for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, lit the fuse that truly made Anfield believe the impossible could be done. His second, a magnificent arcing header just two minutes later, showed that the impossible was just minutes away.
There is another element that could be playing a part in the uncertainty over Wijnaldum’s long-term future and that is Liverpool’s interest in Thiago Alcantara at Bayern Munich.
At Anfield, they are insistent there will be no major incomings this summer and certainly in midfield they are well stocked – the arrivla of back-up left-back Kostas Tsimikas reinforces their midfield options as it means James Milner can now forget about having deputise in defence.
But the Alcantara story refuses to die down, particularly in the German press. Bayern have been very open in saying Thiago will leave this summer and that he wants a challenge in a new league.
But Bayern want £29m for a player with a year left on his contract, a player who Liverpool can enter talks with over a pre-contract agreement for a free transfer in January. So if a move does emerge, it would have to be at a much lower price and, in all likelihood, with a Liverpool midfielder moving on.
If that’s Wijnaldum, it is hard to argue that Thiago would be an upgrade. He is an exciting player and was excellent as Bayern crushed Barcelona in the Champions League.
Wijnaldum has been waiting for Liverpool to begin talks over a contract extension
His future could be tied to Liverpool’s interest in Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara
While Thiago is a quality player, Wijnaldum is overall a more assured option for Liverpool
But he, like Wijnaldum, is 29 years old. Thiago doesn’t have any Premier League experience and also has more of a checkered history with injuries, certainly more so than Wijnaldum.
He struggled with a number of knee ligament issues in the early stages of his Bayern career and while Bayern are no slouches, Klopp’s high-octane pressing system is particularly demanding physically, especially when you consider it alongside the Premier League’s added physicality.
Fresh faces and fresh competition are an important part of ensuring a squad doesn’t become complacent but in this instance, Liverpool would not only be wiser to stick with Wijnaldum, but ensuring that the best years left in his career are spent an Anfield would be astute business.
If Koeman does eventually get his man, it’ll be Liverpool’s loss and they will only have themselves to blame.