As the Liverpool side has stretched and adapted to cope with injury issues and scheduling challenges, one thing has been a constant: Georginio Wijnaldum putting minutes in.
Thus far this season for club and country Wijnaldum has played in 25 matches, just under half of his total matches played in the 2019/20 season (52). He’s featured in 14 of the 19 total Liverpool matches thus far in 2020/21 (playing in 10 of 11 Premier League matches and all five Champions League fixtures). He’s clocked up 2,015 total minutes, with his 1,364 in a red shirt spread across three competitions. His total minutes amount to 46% of his 2019/20 total — and we’re just about a third of the way through the season.
Gini Wijnaldum has been something of the glue holding this Liverpool side together thus far, and he’s had no problem with that; like many players, he is happy to play loads of games.
It’s brilliant that we can all come together and appreciate the contributions of Gini at this stage, and it’s wonderful that we would love nothing more than to see him play out more years in front of the Kop. It surely marks a welcome change from the recent transfer window’s “Gini Out — Thiago In” brigade, to be certain. It’s grand that Wijnaldum is getting support that is perhaps a bit overdue.
Speaking after the match this weekend, Wijnaldum was asked about his contract situation. After iterating what he’d said previously — that he would not speak to the press about contract situations — the interviewer pressed him, asking a leading question that seemed to suggest that his failure to sign a new contract might suggest a lack of connection with the fans. Wijnaldum was understandably annoyed, but handled the situation with grace.
Fans, for their part, have come out in force with contract questions and a clear desire to keep a much beloved player at the club. All of this is understandable, and it is certainly much preferred to recent voices urging the club to cash in on him prior to his contract running out rather than just take the financial hit of him leaving on a free.
Though social media shouts and podcast chatter surely don’t influence the club’s decisions, as we worry over the contract situation we as fans should consider something: it’s possible that Wijnaldum’s ready for a new challenge, ready to play a different role for a different side. It’s possible he wants better terms than the club feel they can offer. And that might just have to be okay, even if we hope it’s not the case.
We speak a lot about how Wijnaldum plays a position that’s a lot of graft. He works hard to plug gaps and shape what opponents can do on the ball (and thus often his contributions are more apparent on the rare occasions when he doesn’t play). We contrast the role he fills in a Klopp midfield with the scoring role he has in his national side, where he gets to do the kind of things that bring on a bit more adulation from general audiences.
His goal against Wolves is a reminder that he has that skill-set in his locker, even if his graft leading up to and following the strike might better showcase his importance to Klopp’s side. Regardless of the contract situation, it looks highly likely that Wijnaldum will play the most minutes in the midfield yet again this campaign, and will be pivotal in any squad achievements in 2020/21.
It is perhaps understandable that he might want to take on a role with less graft, or feel he should look to be paid more for his contributions than the club feel they can afford for a player entering his thirties. His decision might well be contingent on what, if anything, the club wins this season. We as fans have no way of knowing what all is happening behind the scenes. And that’s okay.
It is possible to show appreciation for a player who has never given less than his full effort in a red shirt, even when running on fumes, without flooding his social media accounts with comments about signing a contract. If Gini Wijnaldum does decide to leave Liverpool Football Club on a free transfer at the end of the season, what he has done for the club since signing means he deserves the respect of fans.
We all hope he stays, but what we all could be a bit better at is appreciating these players — every one of them, Gini included — while we have them. Not one of them will play for us forever; we will be fans of the club long after they move on (or, if some do buck the trend and remain at one club for long periods: after they retire). Let’s be grateful for them while we have them, then. Let’s change up an old European Cup tune, shall we?
Oh come all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
Oh come ye, oh come ye,
Come and behold them,
They’re Champions of England,
Oh come let us adore them.