Georginio Wijnaldum has surprised and impressed fans in his first season at Anfield. His work in the midfield alongside Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, and Adam Lallana has been invaluable to the team, and his few but important goals have won several matches for the Reds.
Klopp praises Wijnaldum’s versatility and willingness to play in several positions on the pitch, but clearly prefers him in the center. Gini agrees, preferring to play there over playing winger, which he had done at previous clubs.
“If you’re a winger, you’re busy with yourself,” he said. “You have to make an action: dribble, or cross, or cut in.
“When you’re in midfield, you are the link in the team between the defence and the attack – the connection point for everything.
“In my career I’ve really had to fight to come into the middle again.
“A lot of managers told me ‘you are way more comfortable as a winger than as a midfielder’ but I always kept my trust and confidence in what I knew about my qualities. Because I was fast, technical and could dribble well, it was always the easy thing to label me just a winger and have me stick to that.”
Wijnaldum’s time at Liverpool began quietly, with much of the good work he was doing in midfield getting overshadowed by the new, shiny Sadio Mané, ripping things up in attack, or Adam Lallana pressing the life out of their opponents. But as time passed, Gini’s influence and contributions have grown, as has appreciation for his 1000-watt smile and general good nature.
“I have to say, I’ve grown better and better as the season has gone on because with time, you learn exactly the kind of space your teammates will be in, the passes they like, the runs they will make,” he explained.
“In the beginning I knew most of the players from facing them as the opposition, but I didn’t know how their qualities and mine needed to mix. That comes from training and playing together so the relationship on the pitch grows and I believe we’re just going to get better at it.
“He wants me to get into the box more, because he knows I’ve got the quality to get goals and affect the attacking play, so hopefully I get more chances in games to do that.”
His goal last week at the end of a difficult first half against Burnley was another example of how Wijnaldum can change a game and help his teammates. Liverpool’s next game is against Manchester City. Wijnaldum’s eighth minute goal was the only thing that separated the two teams on New Year’s Eve, the last time they faced off.