For much of the year, the working assumption has been that Liverpool midfield stalwart Georginio Wijnaldum will be off, likely to Barcelona, on a free this summer. As recently as two weeks ago, this rumor seemed to be approaching a near-certainty, at least in the minds of many pundits and fans on social media.
Now, there’s growing evidence to doubt that this will happen.
The player, having given everything for the badge for the last 5 years, and now on the wrong side of 30, would probably like one last, big payday before his career ends. If he wants that payday, and Liverpool are unwilling to meet his demands, he may have to start courting some other European clubs.
According to Sky Sports, Barca are set to pass on Gini because of their mounting debt crisis.
“The Dutch midfielder,” the report explains, “has been a target for Ronald Koeman since he took over last summer and talks have been held over a free transfer.
“Wijnaldum has been waiting on new Barca president Joan Laporta’s comprehensive financial audit to see if they will make him an offer—but that is now in doubt amid debts of more than £1 billion.
“Laporta wants to make La Masia academy the focus of Barcelona’s first-team recruitment again, since being voted in as president for a second time last month.”
The report further claims that Laporta has tapped academy player Ilaix Moriba for promotion to the first team, filling the space that had been slated for Gini.
If the report is true—that Barca cannot afford a world-class midfielder on a free transfer because of the eye-watering £1 billion debt—the club is in, and I believe this is the technical term, “deep shit.”
With all transfer rumors, it’s a good practice to think about motives and recent history. Barcelona, for their part, were uncharacteristically quick to deny the last set of transfer rumors. Moreover, if Barca is set for a quiet summer, where even a free transfer is impossible because of high wages, this could be an opening salvo to lower fan expectations.
Then again, some fans might be disappointed with “just” getting Wijnaldum (they’re wrong, by the way), so this lowering of expectations could go either way.
For Liverpool, hopefully this represents an opportunity to offer an improved deal that Gini will accept in the current financial climate, and keep the phenomenal midfielder around the gaff for a few more seasons.