Editor’s Column: Unhappy Gini Wijnaldum should’ve learned lessons from those before him

Posted by

If it were up to Jurgen Klopp, Gini Wijnaldum would still be a Liverpool player.

That much is 100% certain. No midfielder has played more for Liverpool under Klopp’s guidance – and even if Jordan Henderson stayed fit for the entire season – he still wouldn’t overtaken his former team-mate’s Premier League minutes since Gini signed in 2016…

Wijnaldum was a stalwart for Liverpool both in the dressing room and on the pitch. He was the team’s fourth captain, behind Hendo, James Milner and Virgil van Dijk – chosen specifically by his team-mates – above the likes of Mo Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

“I will miss the player he is like crazy, highest-quality ability, one of the smartest players I have ever had the privilege to coach,” Klopp told the official website when penning a goodbye letter to his Dutch talisman. 

“His contribution was off the scale, a manager’s dream…”

Yet PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino has yet to see what all this fuss was about…

Wijnaldum has only been given one start in PSG’s past five matches in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, with Pochettino favouring Marco Verratti, Idrissa Gueye and even Ander Herrera in his midfield three. When deploying a midfield two, as he has on occasion this season, Poch has also not trusted Gini with a start.

And it’s caused our former no.5 to publicly declare his unhappiness – which historically has rarely led to a player instantly getting more minutes…

“I can’t say I’m completely happy, because the situation is not what I wanted,” he told Dutch news outlet NOS.

“I have played a lot in recent years, was always fit and also did very well. This is something different and that takes getting used to.

“I was really looking forward to the new step and then this happens. It is very difficult.”

This is not the first time this has happened under the German’s reign, of course. Emre Can, like Gini, ran down his contract and rejected multiple offers of an extension, leaving in 2018, only to fail in Italy without the trust, tactics and encouragement of Klopp.

After Juventus, Can joined Borussia Dortmund, where he is also now a substitute.

“I just know how huge the club is and the mentality of the club – they want to win titles. That’s my mentality too. I came here to win titles,” Can told the Mirror at the time of his exit to Juve, just before Liverpool went on to win the Champions League and Premier League in his absence…

Coutinho said something similar of course just six months prior, upon departing for Barcelona in January of the same year.

“I really want to win big titles, it was one of the reasons that made me sign for the club. I want to win as many as I can, I don’t have preferences,” the Brazilian, who at the time was considered one of the world’s best attackers, said, according to SportBible.

It’s fair to say the £142m transfer didn’t work out for Phil, after feigning a back-injury to force an Anfield exit…

He’s been sent out on loan, repeatedly flaunted to various clubs on the continent – who have taken little interest – and even worse, often not selected by Barca through fear of triggering extra transfer fee payments.

This season, he’s made a few appearances, but often with Martin Braithwaite and Luuk de Jong ahead of him – which says it all.

Perhaps the lesson is, when you’re a starter for Klopp and have the adulation of the best fans on the planet, stay where you are.

The manager loved Coutinho, Can and Wijnaldum, but he also maximised their strengths. He made football fun, let them play off the emotion of the crowd, surrounded them with similarly-driven team-mates and had a clear footballing vision and club ethos.

In short, he was an amazing boss and someone whose skill and passion they will not encounter again.

Wijnaldum still has a chance of thriving at PSG, of course, and I hope he does. But does playing a bit-part role in a title for a team you’ve just joined really create happiness and a feeling of achievement? I don’t think so – just look at Taki Minamino’s muted celebrations when Liverpool won the title or the multiple quotes from title-winning subs about a feeling of nothingness.

Remember, Coutinho has won two league titles and two Spanish cups for Barca, and the Bundesliga and Champions League for Bayern Munich since leaving Klopp. So in many ways, he’s got what he wanted – but at the complete cost to his reputation and the unified love of a fanbase. And is he happier? Not judging by how he plays his football nowadays – that’s for sure.

Emre Can won two Serie A titles with Juve, but who cares? He wasn’t a starter and they would have won it without him.

The grass wasn’t greener, and it might not be for Gini, either.

The irony is, while he warms PSG’s bench, Liverpool could do with him. Thiago and Harvey Elliott are injured and it’s likely Wijnaldum would’ve started every PL game this term had he extended.

But he’s made his bed, and I hope he sleeps well in it.

It’s not always a silly decision to leave Klopp. Danny Ings thrived, Xherdan Shaqiri has started well at Lyon and even Dom Solanke is now proving himself a reliable striker in the Championship – but crucially – these three were not starters.

When you have Klopp’s faith and he plays you every week, it doesn’t get much better.

Hopefully when discussing his contract (although Liverpool should rightly be paying him any enormous sum requested), Mo Salah will take note!

More Stories Gini Wijnaldum