For a few days, Georginio Wijnaldum seemed ready to exchange Liverpool for Barcelona. It would have been a nice career move for the free agent, but as is well known in football, there was another twist in the story.
Now everything has changed. Wijnaldum has rejected the glitz and glamor at Camp Nou for the chic City of Lights and Paris Saint-Germain. The hefty salary package naturally played a role, as did Mauricio Pochettino.
The furore over the coach’s future at the club seems to be over for now and he duly came this weekend to convince Wijnaldum to choose his team instead. He signs a three-year contract, pending a medical examination.
Georginio Wijnaldum now looks set to move to Paris Saint-Germain after leaving Liverpool for free
Mauricio Pochettino would contact Wijnaldum himself to convince him for PSG . to choose
The fact that two of the biggest names on the continent are engaged in a dogfight for his signature proves that Wijnaldum still has a lot to offer. PSG, a team brimming with attacking power, hopes he can fit in seamlessly.
After all, they are clearly lacking in a number of important areas. Despite their previous dominance in Ligue 1, PSG has recently fallen short of the last hurdle in the top flight, which is nothing short of a mandatory requirement under their Qatari ownership, recently.
Pochettino, though admittedly only out for a few months, lost to underdogs Lille on a drama-filled final day, with his side finishing just one point behind the newly crowned champions.
The star-studded team of PSG needs more grit and quality in midfield to compete for the big trophies
Improvement is needed for the next campaign and it looks like the former Tottenham coach, having failed to secure a homecoming to north London, has identified exactly what he needs.
Wijnaldum’s imminent arrival shows that his concerns are centered on his midfield. Marco Verratti is a key player for PSG; when he shows up, his teammates usually do too. However, without its grit, the giants seem much more vulnerable.
Italy international Verratti is known for his unerring challenges, fast work pace and his technical prowess in a deep-seated position. But he struggled with injuries that left him in doubt for Euro 2020, and PSG failed to bare their teeth without him.
Wijnaldum may be able to help solve that problem. A box-to-box midfielder with an impressive engine, the Dutchman could be the man to help his new team take games by the scruff of the neck in their bid to challenge on every front.
Wijnaldum has thrived as a box-to-box midfielder at Liverpool and will be a valuable asset to PSG
There is no doubt that PSG’s scouting network would have tirelessly scoured Wijnaldum and cracked his numbers. But what do the raw statistics say, and do they reveal where it would fit?
Most of Wijnaldum’s minutes for Liverpool last season came in the Premier League, so Sports post reviewed those performances.
The first is shooting. To succeed at PSG you must either be able to score goals, or at least contribute to the moves that lead to them. Wijnaldum is unfortunately not known for his prowess in this area – although Pochettino will be aware of this.
He scored two top goals from 31 shots in total last season. Only nine of those were targeted, leaving a successful rate of 29 percent. In short, PSG don’t expect Wijnaldum’s arsenal to shoot them to victory in the future.
Jurgen Klopp brought Wijnaldum out of Newcastle in 2016 and helped him thrive
So what about passing? This is the area in which any capable midfielder should excel. Wijnaldum seemed to make a total of 1747 passes, of which 1630 found the desired man. He is adept at both short and medium lengths.
His long balls are also surprisingly impressive. Last year, 171 sprayed steps flew off his boot, and 153 slippers.
However, the former Newcastle man is missing in the assists department. His total of zero again suggests that PSG will use him as a midfielder and in a role where recycling the ball is king.
It’s also worth diving into his defensive stats. Wijnaldum tackled a total of 30 players last season, nine of which came around the Liverpool penalty area. 16 took place in the middle of the park, and five were sent around the opponent’s last third.
Marco Verratti is PSG’s standout midfielder, but was hit by a series of injuries last season
Pochettino will likely want Wijnaldum to race all over the field and Harry players, and his new signing certainly seems capable of doing just that.
His dazzling pay package indicates he will also be a likely starter, driving anyone away from Ander Herrera, Danilo Pereira and Rafinha.
Herrera made a name for himself at Manchester United through his unwavering energy, passion and composure on the ball, and Wijnaldum, who is also a remarkable all-rounder, was able to fit in seamlessly with him.
But with his ranks strengthened, Pochettino will no doubt have more headaches next season when it comes to the three players he picks in midfield, all of whom will bring very different skills to the table.
Pereira, for example, is more of an enforcer – and Rafinha, who came over from Barcelona in 2020, could be a creative hub behind PSG’s usual star-studded triumvirate up front.
Idrissa Gueye, Pablo Sarabia, Julian Draxler and Leandro Paredes are also options.
Ander Herrera is also a key player at PSG but could end up on the bench for Wijnaldum
Wijnaldum, a jack of all trades and a significant investment, looks set to fall directly into Pochettino’s project when the team reunites after the summer break.
After that, expectations will be high that he will immediately fit into Pochettino’s preferred style of play. The boss may not have set the world on fire after replacing Thomas Tuchel, but the Argentine’s philosophy and concepts remain the same.
His teams are usually sent out in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation, and there is a focus on central attack building. Each of PSG’s midfielders is crucial at this stage and Wijnaldum is tasked with keeping the ball and guiding it forward.
After that, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria can be let loose down the flanks, and with those superstars in the lead, PSG usually have few problems scoring many goals.
Wijnaldum in Pochettino’s squad is certainly an intriguing idea, especially given the Holland international’s open regret for not playing under him before.
Wijnaldum scored a host of important goals for Liverpool, including his brace against Barcelona
“I went to Mauricio Pochettino’s house before speaking to Liverpool,” Wijnaldum said in 2016. “After the meeting, I said to my agent, ‘I’m going to Spurs’.”
“Pochettino is a great manager, if you look at the way his teams play. I was impressed with what he had to say. I saw Spurs as a good match for me – but we couldn’t agree financial terms with them.
‘In retrospect, however, that was not a disaster. Pochettino was great, but then Jurgen Klopp made me feel even more relaxed.”
Now the two men can finally work together – and both are sure to set their sights on the top.
Sports post predicted how PSG could take shape next season with new face Wijnaldum included