Liverpool could be facing their most difficult transfer in years next summer. Georginio Wijnaldum’s contract is due to run out next summer and that could leave Jurgen Klopp with a huge recruitment task on his hands. The Dutchman has been an almost ever-present for Klopp signing joining the Reds from Newcastle for £25m in 2016. He is widely regarded as one of Liverpool’s most underrated players and often goes under the radar of the wider football community.
For those that don’t watch the Reds week in week out, Wijnaldum may appear to be one of the weak links in Liverpool’s side. He doesn’t rank high in any metrics you’d expect for such an important part of a Champions League winning side. Goals and assists are hard to come by for the 29-year-old – other than nights under the lights against Barcelona – and he doesn’t register the defensive contributions in terms of tackles and interceptions that Jordan Henderson and Fabinho do. As a result, replacing the Dutch midfielder isn’t as easy as finding midfielders that rank high in areas that you’d expect for the world’s best team. Wijnaldum has never ranked highly in those areas and doesn’t need to. Instead, he brings a calming influence that threads the play together. He’s a smooth operator that might well be irreplaceable, but whether he moves on next summer or not, finding a midfielder of Wijnaldum’s calibre is much harder than appears on the surface. Therefore, we need to look beyond the data and towards players that have the calming influence to thread the play together amidst all of the calculated chaos that Klopp’s sides provide.
To search for potential replacements for the 29-year-old, it is first worth looking at players that have the ability to play in a three-man midfield, offers defensive security and fits the mould of aggressive pressing that Klopp demands from his players.
From those credentials, Youri Tielemans (Leicester City) the Belgian midfielder might just be Leicester’s equivalent of Wijnaldum.
In a team including the firepower of Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, as well as the defensive actions of Wilfred Ndidi, Tielemans is often overlooked by the wider footballing world. However, after making notable development under Brendan Rodgers, the 22-year-old could be seen as the perfect Wijnaldum replacement. The Belgian offers significantly more creativity to Leicester than Wijnaldum does to Liverpool at the moment, but at 22 years old he still has a number of years to be developed into a Wijnaldum-like midfielder. Tielemans’ pass accuracy of 84.39% this season is considerably lower than Wijnaldum’s 92.1% which shows him to be less risk-averse than the Liverpool midfielder. There is, though, no reason to suggest why Tielemans couldn’t develop into the smooth operator that Wijnaldum is. One caveat to that, though, is the fact that he prefers to play on the right of a midfield three. Showing the ability to play on the left, too, would undoubtedly enhance his chances of a move to Anfield.
Overall, a key part in this deal coming to fruition is the way in which Rodgers develops Tielemans over the coming months. For a manager who will most likely have a closer eye on Klopp’s tactics than most, the former Liverpool boss could be crucial in this deal.