Can Liverpool afford to let Wijnaldum leave on a free transfer? Neil Jones Can Liverpool afford to let Wijnaldum leave on a free transfer? Neil Jones - Gistmattaz Ng : Nigeria News | Latest Naija News Today 24/7

Can Liverpool afford to let Wijnaldum leave on a free transfer? Neil Jones

The Netherlands international is about to enter the final year of his Anfield contract but remains an integral part of Jurgen Klopp's side

There was at least one notable absence as Liverpool stepped up their preparations for the Premier League restart with a practice match at Anfield this week.

Gini Wijnaldum missed the 11v11 ‘scenario-based’ contest. A precautionary measure, with Jurgen Klopp and his medical team electing to take no risks with what the club website described as a “minor knock”.

Wijnaldum was back on the grass at Melwood on Wednesday, but Liverpool may soon have to cope without the Netherlands international on a more regular basis.

Klopp would like him to stay, of course, and that point has been communicated to the player and his representatives. Wijnaldum may not be Liverpool’s most spectacular player, but he is certainly one of the manager’s most trusted. He wanted to be a gymnast as a kid, now he is Klopp's flexible friend.

“It’s just so obvious, his importance,” Klopp told reporters earlier this season. “Is he the perfect midfielder? From his skill set, 100 per cent. He has all the things you need.”

Pep Lijnders believes Wijnaldum, along with Roberto Firmino, is the player who best represents Liverpool’s identity.

“We want players who are responsible for everything,” the assistant manager told Goal last year. “He represents what want in a player really well.”

The statistics back up Lijnders’ point. Since Wijnaldum arrived from Newcastle in the summer of 2016, only one player has made more appearances for Liverpool in all competitions, and that is Firmino.

In terms of league matches, the Dutchman has missed only 11 games from a possible 143. Again only Firmino, with eight, has missed fewer.

If Wijnaldum is fit -  and he usually is, which is an underrated quality in the modern game – then he features, although it is interesting to note that he has twice been left on the bench by Klopp in Champions League semi-finals. On both occasions, against Roma in 2018 and, most memorably, Barcelona last year, he came on to make a sizeable contribution as a substitute.

Wijnaldum Liverpool

Interestingly, he has described his relationship with Klopp as “more or less hate and love”, admitting that being left out against Barcelona left him “so angry and so disappointed” that he wanted to prove a point to his manager.

“I still don’t know if what happened was his real plan,” Wijnaldum told the Sunday Mirror. “Looking back we can say things worked out all right!”

Wijnaldum’s contribution for Liverpool can be hard to spot from a statistical point of view. Critics point to a modest goal return – he has never managed more than six in a season for the Reds – and the fact he has, remarkably, not registered a single assist since the 2017-18 campaign. His performances for the Dutch national team, where he has registered 10 goals in his last 17 appearances, merely adds to the confusion.

The truth, though, is that Wijnaldum’s role under Klopp is far more nuanced, as this excellent analysis shows. He is, as one club source puts it, “the safety valve”, expected to keep possession and to constantly be in the right position without the ball. He provides balance, physicality and selflessness, as well as much-needed versatility.

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