Liverpool may have made an early exit from the Champions League, but once again one of Jurgen Klopp’s most dependable assets got himself on the scoresheet when it mattered most. Georginio Wijnaldum levelled the tie against Atletico Madrid with a header just before half time to get his side back in the game. The timing was reminiscent of the brace he bagged in the dramatic semi-final second leg, which was eventually overshadowed by Divok Origi’s winner en route to winning the prestigious European competition.
Wijnaldum, valued at £45m (Transfermarkt), spent just one season with Newcastle and was the Magpies’ top-scorer on 11 goals as they were relegated from the Premier League for the second time under Mike Ashley. Despite the troubling league position, Klopp saw enough promise to sign the Netherlands international for £25m.
The German manager’s eyes did not deceive him, and the Dutch central midfielder has gone on to make 177 Liverpool appearances in four seasons since arriving at Anfield. During that period the former winger has had a hand in 34 goals, scoring 18 of those and assisting 16, it is hardly a prolific output from the engine room, but many of those have come at crucial moments, such as last night against Atletico Madrid.
Despite being 5’ 7” he also has an incredible knack for finishing headed chances, Wijnaldum has scored eight Premier League headers, precisely one-third of his overall total. It is a unique attribute he brings to the Liverpool attack given none of the three forwards are blessed with towering height, Roberto Firmino is the tallest at 5’9”.
This term the Dutch international has three goals to his name, and aside from the front three only compatriot Virgil van Dijk can boast more, four, as per WhoScored. Having previously been a winger while playing in his native Netherlands Wijnaldum also has outstanding dribbling capabilities, and no other central midfielder for the Reds has averaged more than his 1.2 per match in the Premier League this season. Furthermore, the 29-year-old boasts an almost immaculate 90.9 per cent pass accuracy for Klopp’s side, the highest of anyone in the squad to have started a Premier League match.
Wijnaldum’s unique skillset brings a different dynamic to Liverpool which nobody else in the squad can quite match. Since joining from Newcastle, he has been an overwhelming success, playing a significant role in securing both the Champions League and what should soon be Liverpool’s first league title in 30 years.