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Wijnaldum exit could lead to a midfield reshuffle at Anfield

The Dutchman has been a central part of Jurgen Klopp’s all-conquering Liverpool side but former national team manager Ronald Koeman is eager to bring Wijnaldum to the Nou Camp.

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka, left, duels for the ball with Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum during the English FA Community Shield soccer match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Wembley stadium in London, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. (Andrew Couldridge/Pool
Andrew CouldridgeAP

Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum is reportedly close to a move to Spanish giants Barcelona after failing to agree a contract extension at Anfield.

The 29-year-old’s current deal is set to end in June 2021 and Liverpool risk losing him on a free if the situation is not resolved this summer. The Mirror claims that Wijnaldum will fetch a fee of between £13-18million if he leaves this transfer window but no deal has yet been agreed.

A report from Spain on Wednesday suggested that the Dutchman had agreed personal terms with the Catalan club but Liverpool sources insist that there has been no formal contact between the two sides. However Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman is known to be a fan of Wijnaldum having managed him for the Dutch national team where he starred alongside Barça’s young midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

Liverpool are not looking to move the player on but will be eager to avoid losing him on a free transfer next season, having being stung by the loss of Emre Can in 2018. The German midfielder refused to sign a new contract with the club and left for Juventus on a free.

With Liverpool suffering from the loss of revenue caused by the pandemic any fee they get for Wijnaldum will be vital and could be used to bring in greater quality to the midfield.

Like-for-like: Thiago Alcantara

Liverpool may soon dispense with one 29-year-old Champions League-winning midfielder but they are the current favourites to sign another. Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara has been linked with a move to Anfield for months and despite having been a key part of Bayern Munich’s treble-winning side he appears likely to leave this summer.

He too has just a year left on his contract so would only command a fee of around £27million and would offer something different to Liverpool’s other midfield option. His creative passing and sharp dribbling could help Klopp’s side break down a compact defence and he has a wealth of experience at the top level.

Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano reported on Wednesday that Bayern Munich expect to receive a new bid from Liverpool soon, while Manchester United are also considering a move for the playmaker.

Promote from within

For much of Liverpool’s title-winning season the first-choice midfield three remained the same; Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Wijnaldum. That trio was a perfect foil for the fluid front three and rampaging full-backs, but they were far from the only options at Klopp’s disposal.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita have both struggled to tie down a place in the starting XI since joining the club but they showed their quality at times last season with some dynamic performances. Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a number of excellent goals, including three in five Champions League appearances, while Keita was arguably Liverpool’s best player after the restart. Either of them could offer the attacking impetus that the Reds’ more functional midfield is sometimes lacking.

Young Liverpudlian Curtis Jones also impressed after the restart and made a total of 12 appearances across all competitions last season, including captaining the side in a FA Cup fixture. Jones was recently rewarded with the No. 17 shirt once worn by Steven Gerrard and the 19-year-old will hope to be given more first-team opportunities in the coming year.


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