As imperative as Georginio Wijnaldum has been during Jurgen Klopp’s Champions League and Premier League-winning seasons with Liverpool, all good things must come to an end.
The Dutchman is still yet to commit himself to a new deal at Anfield and talk of a move to Barcelona isn’t going away anytime soon. And while it might hurt Liverpool fans on the surface, Wijnaldum turns 31 this year and being forced to move him on could be the ideal catalyst for a mini rebuild.
By no means do Liverpool need a complete overhaul, but fresh faces are key when transitioning between squads and trying to stay at the top of the pile. Should Wijnaldum choose to pack his bags and leave Merseyside, there are others capable of filling the void. Curtis Jones is proving that he can eventually be the man, but expecting him to take on the burden alone would be naïve.
Here’s who the Reds should be looking at as Wijnaldum’s replacement.
The Argentine was pursued by Leeds last summer, but to no avail. A tenacious midfielder with plenty of goal threat, Rodrigo de Paul would no doubt freshen up Liverpool’s approach play and provide more sting from deep.
De Paul sits in a central midfield spot for Udinese and bombs forward with intelligent runs. His energy would match that of Wijnaldum’s with time, although question marks would remain over defensive areas and midfield balance.
A more balanced presence with a CV that boasts Premier League experience, Brighton are going to have a hard time keeping hold of Yves Bissouma in the coming months.
While perhaps not as exciting as targets like De Paul, Bissouma has proven invaluable in Graham Potter’s possession-based style of play. Sitting at the base of the midfield, the 24-year-old efficiently breaks down attacks and recycles the ball swiftly with accurate passing.
He won’t come cheap, though.
Heading to France, Liverpool could find a youthful, long-term replacement in Boubakary Soumare.
At just 21, Soumare is future-proof and has plenty of room to grow under Klopp’s tutelage. A sound defensive presence, Soumare is averaging 2.1 long balls per game this season and boasts an average 86.7% pass success.
There’s plenty for him to work on, but rotation with others would allow him to be eased in.
Despite still being just 23, Sanches’ reputation in the Premier League is already blemished, with many associating him with dozens of misplaced passes during an ill-fated loan to Swansea in 2015.
He’s made a serious effort to shake that reputation since signing for Lille in 2019. Box to box and capable of playing centrally and wide, Sanches is a serious creative force from deep when fit and would thrive in Liverpool’s dynamic midfield three.
And while fitness might be an issue, wrapping him in cotton wool and rotating him with Curtis Jones could get the best out of the pair.
While Timo Werner and Kai Havertz aren’t exactly flying the flag high for Bundesliga talents moving to the Premier League, Florian Neuhaus could be a shrewd, under-the-radar option.
The 23-year-old is useful at both ends of the pitch and rounds off impressive dribbling with crisp passing and a goal threat. He’s bagged five goals and four assists from central midfield for Borussia Monchengladbach so far this season, and has a €40m release clause according to reports.
Interested parties in Neuhaus are quickly piling up, thus Liverpool would have to act fast to fend off the pull of Bayern Munich and other top sides.