When Gini Wijnaldum arrived at Liverpool from Newcastle back in 2016 in a £25m deal, there was little excitement from the Reds’ fanbase.
The Dutchman arrived at a similar time to Estonian international Ragnar Klavan, and the Liverpool fans were quizzical over why their beloved club was signing players from mid-table Bundesliga sides, and teams that had been relegated from the Premier League.
Wijnaldum had made a name for himself as a goalscoring midfielder over in Holland with PSV Eindhoven, scoring 18 goals in all competitions the season before his move to St James’ Park, where he continued his form with 11 goals and five assists in the league for the Magpies.
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However, in his first season under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, the Dutch international scored just six goals from a deeper position, which was to be a sign of things to come for the pragmatic midfielder.
Wijnaldum has become a fans’ favourite over in the red half of Merseyside, even playing the Reds’ crucial game against Bournemouth with sickness and diarrhoea – he still managed to find the back of the net and put in a Man of the Match performance.
“Even at half-time I had to run off quickly to get to the toilet. At half-time I thought: ‘Oh no’ but I ran inside and managed to control it”, said the 28-year-old, and it is this attitude to put the team before himself in a crucial moment for their Premier League title hopes that has endeared him so much to the Anfield faithful.
He has notched just 10 goals in a Liverpool shirt, eight less than in his final season in Holland and one less than in his first and only season with Newcastle, but that is an embodiment of how Wijnaldum’s game is changing for the better.
No longer is he sacrificing his defensive work off the ball in order to be on hand to score goals. Now, he is aware that Liverpool have enough goalscorers, and has successfully reinvented himself as a workhorse in the midfield, keeping things ticking nicely and proving to be the glue that links it all together.
His successful transition could well land the Reds a first Premier League title come May, a feat which would see the Dutchman go down in the club’s history as a hero – if that happens, it would be thoroughly deserved.