Five years ago this summer, Gini Wijnaldum joined Liverpool from Newcastle in a £23M deal and signed a five-year deal with his new club. This summer, that contract expired, allowing him to join Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.
In an ideal world, such was his importance to the best Liverpool side of the Premier League era, Wijnaldum would have seen his stay on Merseyside extended two or even three years ago. That didn’t happen. Still, he departs the club as one of the most important players in one of the winningest sides in the club’s history.
“You’re a Liverpool legend now and forever,” said manager Jürgen Klopp in his farewell message to the Dutch international. “He is now someone else’s and on behalf of the team we wish him great success. Knowing his personality, he will fall in love with the city and the team—and they with him.”
Wijnaldum made 237 total appearances for Klopp’s Liverpool, winning the Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup, and helping to end the club’s three-decade domestic league title drought by capping it off with a Premier League title.
Not only was his press resistance, technical quality, and tactical nous and positional flexibility vitally important to the side that won all that, but he averaged 49 appearances a season over his last four years at the club and played 800-1000 minutes more than the next most utilized midfielder in each.
That contribution will be difficult to replace. Almost as difficult, in Klopp’s mind, as the contributions Wijnaldum made to the side as teammate, co-worker, and friend to the other coaches and players day in and day out.
“There is nothing I won’t miss about him,” Klopp noted. “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. His contribution was off the scale, a manager’s dream.
“But as a person he’ll leave just as big a hole. A more giving individual you could not wish to meet. Gini is very strong and opinionated, but his motivation is only to help the team—always. His teammates adored him and respected him in equal measure. He was a huge part of our beating heart.”