Football Features

Georginio Wijnaldum: Is a “dream” move to Barcelona realistic for the Dutchman?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:24, 24 May 2021

Georginio Wijnaldum has announced he will leave Liverpool at the end of his current contract this summer.

The Dutch midfielder rejected contract offers from the Reds and played out his final games for the club with distinction, receiving a guard of honour after the final match of the season at home against Crystal Palace.

“It is emotional for me, I lose a friend and we’ll miss him but it’s normal in football,” said Klopp of Wijnaldum. “He will find a great place for whichever club is interested.”

Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher said: “That man will never be forgotten for the role he’s played in the success under Jurgen Klopp. There’s no doubt he’ll go down as a legend.”

But which clubs are interested? Who is in the market for Wijnaldum’s services? We’ve had a look and come up with a dream, realistic and wildcard option for Liverpool’s departing Dutch dynamo.

Dream: Barcelona

There has been talk of Barcelona moving for Gini Wijnaldum for literally a year. Hell, Ronald Koeman pushed for the club to shell out a transfer fee for him a year ago and would definitely welcome him now.

On the face of it, the move makes sense; Wijnaldum is a proven international class footballer who would cost the cash-strapped Catalans no transfer fee, which is always a bonus. Dutch players have a long history of success at the Camp Nou. And Wijnaldum’s own affinity for the move makes sense given Koeman is the manager.

“He’s 30 years old, the manager of Barcelona was his national team manager, who he gets on with really, really well,” said ex-Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy, adding: “We don’t know his aspirations as a young player. Maybe Barcelona is a dream he has always had.”

So much sense does it all seem to make that Sky Bet price Wijnaldum 5/2 to end up with Barcelona next season.

But does the move actually make sense? Sure, Wijnaldum could sign for Barcelona, he could sign for anyone as he’s a very good player; but the thing is, Koeman may not be the manager for much longer. After a very impressive start to 2021, leading to their Copa del Rey victory, Barcelona threw La Liga away when the title was in their hands. As a result, it’s likely that Koeman will be replaced this summer.

Moreover, and more importantly, the role Wijnaldum was intended to fill at Barcelona; a box-to-box midfield position that got forward and threatened goal i.e. the same role he played for Koeman with the Dutch national side, has ended up being filled out this season by Frenkie de Jong, who is both younger and better than Wijnaldum.

De Jong has been a revelation in this unleashed role, and in the more restrained and perceptive central midfield role (that Wijnaldum could also fill) the teenager Pedri has come in and been so impressive that he’s played in almost every game and has been called up to Spain’s Euro 2020 squad despite being just 18 years of age.

Then there’s defensive midfield where Wijnaldum could present himself as a more athletic alternative to Sergio Busquets. And while he can play there, he wouldn’t offer the kind of perceptive passing that Busquets does, passing that is essential to the way Barcelona play.

Essentially, the small window for Gini Wijnaldum moving to Barcelona has probably closed. Had they managed to seal a deal when Koeman still had a lot of power in the summer, or if Koeman had done better to have enough clout to force it through in January, or won La Liga so that Joan Laporta would essentially be “forced” to retain him for another season, then Wijnaldum’s dream would still be alive.

But Koeman has not been good. And Barcelona have greater squad needs that their meagre-to-non-existent summer transfer budget will need to be stretched for. So as much it might be Wijnaldum’s dream to join Barcelona, and as much as the move makes sense on paper, it’s not a move that makes any kind of sense in the reality of the world.

Realistic: PSG

So what is a realistic destination for Wijnaldum? Well, look no further than Ligue 1 runners-up PSG. The Parisians are an obscenely wealthy side and they are incredibly stacked in attack with Neymar, Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi and Kylian Mbappé providing tonnes of firepower.

Where they can often be found wanting, however, is in midfield and defence. Units that can be, shall we say, a tad flimsy (and this is despite possessing Marquinhos, one of the very best defenders in the world).

Mauricio Pochettino reportedly wants to put the PSG midfield under reconstruction in the summer. And that reconstruction would be greatly aided by a proven winner as reliable as Wijnaldum is.

Whatever else you can say about Wijnaldum, he is a hard worker and intensely reliable under pressure in big games. That is something far too many PSG players are not able to say. Picking him up for free (PSG could easily match whatever wages he asks for) would go a long way to making PSG’s midfield a more solid unit, freeing up transfer funds to be spent on the defence and some proper full-backs.

It’s not a romantic move, necessarily, but a very realistic one to be sure, given a 5/1 chance by Sky Bet.

Wildcard: Bayern Munich

The other major club in for Wijnaldum is German giants Bayern Munich, who are 11/10 favourites to sign the Dutchman according to Sky Bet. Sport1 say that positive talks have been held between both parties and they want the move. This makes sense on the pitch as Bayern are always hunting for more value to add to the side and with Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso and Marc Roca, there is an opening for a another central midfielder that Wijnaldum could fill.

Given the intense style of play favoured by new coach Julian Nagelsmann, as well as his preference for a 3-4-2-1 formation, it’s possible that Kimmich could move to wing-back, such is his overwhelming attacking quality (and Bayern’s lack of options on the right given Benjamin Pavard is barely a full-back, let alone a wing-back), which means having a dynamic player in the middle like Wijnaldum who knows how to win the ball and move it on quickly becomes even more important.

However, this move has to be a wildcard because Wijnaldum’s age and wage demands would probably see him fall afoul of the Bayern Munich wage structure that saw the club allow a legend like David Alaba to leave this summer rather than hand him a bumper new contract.