Written By: Matthew Woods
Georginio Wijnaldum has solidified his importance to Liverpool Football Club countless occasions through out his tenure in Merseyside, but perhaps none more important than the 2020/21 season. With injuries ravaging the side, Wijnaldum has stepped up, played the second most minutes in the team, and putting together some top notch performances no matter the role he’s playing in midfield.
Wijnaldum has had countless moments of brilliance while with the Reds; the pair of goals in the Champions League semi-final vs Barcelona, the goal vs Roma in the Champions League semi-final, that nasty chipped goal vs Bournemouth, and who can forget his first career Liverpool goal and exuberant celebration against Watford to cap off a 6-1 demolition in 2016.
Having just turned 30-years-old, and with an expiring contract that will allow him to discuss a pre-contract agreement with other clubs, there is a possibility Wijnaldum is on the home-stretch of his Liverpool career. Though many fans would like him to re-sign with the club, speculation throughout the summer and overlapping into this season has many fans unsettled.
So who could Liverpool turn to in the transfer market to replace Wijnaldum should the Dutchman leave? Here are eight midfield options LFC may consider on the transfer market:
Denis Zakaria, MonchengladbachEmbed from Getty Images
With a recent return from injury, Zakaria has had limited minutes so far this 2020/21 season at Borussia Monchengladbach, but the talent is surely there. With a style of play reminiscent of Paul Pogba by my observations, Zakaria has all the tools to become one of the best midfielders in Europe. Mainly present in defensive midfield (personally think he is better as box-to-box), Zakaria has a wide range of ability both offensively and defensively, though different to the style of Wijnaldum, he is exceptionally effective.
The 24-year-old Swiss international has been dominant for Monchengladbach the past few Bundesliga seasons. Defensively he is a rock; averaging 1.2 interceptions per game and 1.7 tackles per game over the past two seasons in Germany. Offensively, Zakaria has improved greatly; utilizing his speed, passing range, and vision with and without the ball.
Zakaria is the most well-rounded player on this list, bar none. A gifted dribbler, instinctive decision maker, physical presence, and much more, Zakaria is the complete package.
Houssem Aouar, LyonEmbed from Getty Images
Offensively, the best player on this list. Defensively, not so much. Houssem Aouar has a very unique skill-set. A very forward thinking midfielder, Aouar has more similarities to Phillipe Coutinho than Georginio Wijnaldum.
Aouar is an excellent passer of the ball, even though his passing statistics may not show it. With a passing success rate of 84%, Aouar’s best attributes take place in the final third, where he makes 1 key pass per game, mainly with delicate through ball’s to the forward line. And when he is in and around the box, he can find the back of the net with ease. But with the positives, come some negatives, and defense is where he would need to step it up (again, much more like Coutinho than Wijnaldum).
The few traits that may carry over best to Merseyside would be his dribbling and ball retention. Elusive at times with the ball, Aouar would add a great deal to an already world class attack at Anfield.
Ruben Neves, WolvesEmbed from Getty Images
Liverpool can’t possibly raid Wolves again for one of their playmakers, right? Neves has been a longtime target for Michael Edwards and Liverpool dating back to the summer of 2017.
Neves is an ideal replacement for Wijnaldum and boasts some of the same qualities and more. The 23-year-old Portuguese product is a tone setter for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side and can do it all. Amazing awareness, fantastic when defending in midfield, can shoot from distance, provides versatility, and adds another weapon from set-pieces.
Surely Neves would slot right in where Wijnaldum would be in midfield, but returning so quickly to Wolves for another of their prized assets could prove costly.
Yves Bissouma, BrightonEmbed from Getty Images
In my opinion, the least likely to be signed by LFC on this list, is Brighton’s Yves Bissouma. A main cog for the Seagulls in their draw against Liverpool, Bissouma is a talent still on the rise and yet to really hone his craft.
His statistics clearly show he plays for a relegation battling team, but it’s defensively where the Malian shines…for the most part. Averaging 3.2 tackles per game, Bissouma is an undisciplined tackling machine who can hit one from distance. He has racked up 3 yellow cards and a red in 10 Premier League appearances this season.
Liverpool, though, have done it before with signing relegated players (Wijnaldum being one), perhaps Bissouma is the next one in line.
Youri Tielemans, LeicesterEmbed from Getty Images
Once one of the young starlets at Monaco, Youri Tielemans has developed well into one of the better midfielders in the Premier League. The 23-year-old Belgian international joined the Foxes in a somewhat surprising loan-to-buy move in January of 2019, but it wasn’t until Brendan Rogers came into the fold that we started seeing his game blossom into what it is now.
A strong dribbler of the ball, alongside teammate James Maddison, Tielemans is part of one of the best attacking midfield duo’s in European football. Tielemans averages a strong 1.3 successful dribbles per game while drawing nearly 2 fouls per match. But it is his ability to get the ball up the field and link-up play with his forwards that would suit Liverpool’s system, much like the way Wijnaldum does.
The only downgrade in this situation would be the price-tag. Tielemans was bought for nearly £50M, and with the recent sales made by Leicester, you can expect they would make sure the Belgian was sold at their price only.
Marcelo Brozovic, Inter MilanEmbed from Getty Images
A name that has come up on occasion over the last few years, and most recently this past summer, has been Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic. The 28-year-old Croatian is the catalyst in midfield for an Inter team that made it to the Europa League final back in August.
Brozovic’s unique style of play is exactly the type Jurgen Klopp looks for in a midfielder. Brozovic can play multiple roles; he can drop deep into midfield and protect the back line, he can be a playmaker (even from deep in midfield, much like Henderson, Thiago, and Fabinho when they go forward from the same role), as well as play a traditional no.8 role.
The Croatians passing may be the ability that sets him apart most from the rest. Brozovic averages 89% pass accuracy (On par with Fabinho), 1 key pass per 90 (would put him 2nd most among midfielders at LFC), and 3.3 long balls per game (more than Henderson [3.0]). Brozovic would immediately help break down teams who like to sit back, which in this day in age, is roughly 75% of Liverpool’s opponents.
Ryan Gravenberch, AjaxEmbed from Getty Images
Liverpool were able to see the skill-set of Gravenberch up-close-and-personal last week as the Reds took down Ajax at Anfield to solidify their place in the Champions League knockout stages. Gravenberch put on one hell of a display finding open space and posing a worthy challenge to Liverpool’s midfield and back-line.
With a high ceiling and further possible growth as an all-around player, Gravenberch immediately steps in and is able to be the box-to-box midfielder that LFC need should Wijnaldum depart. Gravenberch has been touted by many to be one of the best prospects to come through Ajax in recent years. With pace, height, and ability to create for himself and others, Liverpool would be foolish not to consider replacing one Dutchman with another.
With January quickly approaching, Liverpool and Wijnaldum need to come to terms on a decision soon. Replacing Wijnaldum’s impact on the field and in the locker room will be an extremely difficult one should they have to make it.
But rest assured, options are there. Should Wijnaldum leave Merseyside, who do you think would be a great replacement?