Gini Wijnaldum can’t escape £ 156m Liverpool truth after Paris Saint-Germain Champions League exit


If you say the name, ‘Gini Wijnaldum’ to Liverpool fans, the same first thought will come to all of their respective minds.


The Dutchman was the man for the big occasion at Anfield, departing last summer as an English, European and world champion and having left his mark on some of the biggest occasions during his five years on Merseyside.

Scoring against Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton in domestic competition, he’d also find the net in two Champions League semi-finals as well as score the opener in the final day victory in 2016/17 which saw the Reds return to Europe’s elite competition in the first place.

But it was the second of those European Cup semi-finals, against Barcelona, ​​where he wrote his name into Reds folklore forever.

Left on the bench at Anfield, with Liverpool trailing 3-0 on aggregate, he came on at half-time to score a brace in front of the Kop in a historic 4-0 win as Jurgen Klopp ‘s side clinched the most famous of victories.

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Next stop, Madrid and the Champions League final. Just a few weeks later Wijnaldum would help the Reds beat Tottenham to be crowned champions of Europe. Legendary status achieved.

No matter where the 31-year-old goes and what he achieves throughout the rest of his career, he will always be remembered for that Barcelona victory.

So why is it, when Paris Saint-Germain needed a big moment of their own on Wednesday night, he was left unused on the bench?

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were winning 1-0 on the night and 2-0 on aggregate against Real Madrid, with just half an hour to go at the Bernabeu, as the French giants looked to be casually strolling into the Champions League quarter-finals.

Enter Karim Benzema.

One of Liverpool’s tormentors in their 2018 Champions League final loss, the Frenchman netted a 17-minute hat-trick to complete an unlikely comeback for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

There were 12 minutes plus stoppage-time left on the clock when the striker completed his treble, leaving PSG needing a hero to salvage the tie.

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Pochettino turned to Angel Di Maria and then Julian Draxler in an attempt to level the scores, but their efforts were in vain.

Allowed to utilise a maximum of five substitutes, the PSG boss only turned to three as Wijnaldum was left watching on helplessly from the bench as his new side exited the Champions League.

At Anfield, he would have been a go-to man on such an occasion. Instead, his spectator role emphasizing how his Paris dream has really not gone to plan.

Signed alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi, the Dutchman was supposed to be one of the missing pieces of the jigsaw who would help transform PSG into European champions.

Instead, he did not play a minute home or away against Real Madrid as they fell at the first knockout hurdle.

Repeatedly scapegoated by the French media for his performances this season, and often linked with a move away as a result, his plight in the Bernabeu was not a surprise.

Used to being a virtual ever-present during his five years with Liverpool, only once making less than 35 Premier League appearances in a season and only registering less than 47 outings overall in the one year the Reds weren’t competing in Europe, it has been a rather different story for the midfielder in Paris.

With PSG playing 39 matches so far this season, he has featured in 29. From those appearances, only 18 have been from the start.

Unimpressive when he does play, it would probably be no surprise if he did move on after just a season at the Parc des Princes in the summer.

Former Red Stan Collymore even suggested earlier this week that Liverpool should make a low-ball offer to re-sign the midfielder when the transfer window opens.

But had he stayed at Anfield, would his experience really have been much different this season.

The Reds were criticized last summer for not signing a replacement for the Dutchman but have eight senior options battling for midfield starts. While injuries saw those numbers seriously depleted back in the Autumn, full availability now leaves them in a position where Klopp is regularly having to leave at least one out of his matchday squad altogether.

Midfield injuries are nothing new to Liverpool, of course. Losing Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to injury, as well as Emre Can and Adam Lallana at one point, was one of the main reasons why Wijnaldum made so many appearances for the Reds in the first place .

One of the first names on Klopp’s teamsheet due to his constant availability, that did not stop Liverpool from strengthening their midfield further with Oxlade-Chamberlain in 2017, Fabinho and Keita in 2018 and Thiago in 2020 – with the quartet costing the Reds a combined £ 156m.

As reliable as Wijnaldum was, the German was always seeking that something a little bit more.

And while Klopp might rotate his options, there’s no denying the Dutchman would be fourth-choice at best if still at Anfield. After all, if Keita or Thiago had been injury-free and playing to the best of their abilities, they would inevitably have started ahead of him.

The 31-year-old’s move to France has not worked out and should act as a warning to any player looking to leave Liverpool while Klopp is in charge. The grass isn’t always greener.

While Wijnaldum and the Reds will always have Barcelona, ​​ironically a rare game where he did find himself left out of the starting XI, his time with the Reds has been and gone.

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Supporters will hope he can re-capture his Liverpool form, either in Paris or elsewhere and using such snubs to prompt a Barca-esque revival, but it will not be back at Anfield.

Klopp might not have replaced the midfielder last summer, but his midfield signings in recent years always looked set to push the Netherlands international down the pecking order.

It’s testament to his abilities that he avoided such a role at Anfield, cementing his place year after year despite being written off as the possible fall-guy following the latest big-money arrival, but Liverpool are coping just fine without him.

In contrast, Wijnaldum is anything but fine without the Reds, experiencing the very fate he did so well to repeatedly side-step during his five years with Liverpool.



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