Unless something strange happens between now and the end of June, Georginio Wijnaldum’s five-year stint with Liverpool will come to an end.
The Dutchman, who joined the club in the summer of 2016 from Newcastle United, will leave the Reds on a free transfer with FC Barcelona — coached by his former Dutch national team manager, Ronald Koeman — touted as his most likely destination.
A key cog to Liverpool’s successes during his time on Merseyside, Wijnaldum will be missed and his niche and specific role in the Reds’ engine room will be hard to replace.
More than anything else, the Netherlands international’s role is to use his tactical intelligence and physical robustness to provide coverage for the Anfield club’s adventurous and attacking full-backs, Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson.
The fact that Liverpool — up until a raft of defensive injuries upset the apple cart this season — have been the best defence in the Premier League for two of the last three seasons, despite playing attacking football with full-backs who are invariably stationed high up the pitch, is a testament to their number 5’s quality.
Several players have been linked with replacing Wijnaldum for the Reds, including Yves Bissouma of Brighton and Borrusia Monchengladbach’s German international Florian Neuhaus, among many others.
But a move for Borussia Dortmund’s Portuguese full-back cum midfielder Raphael Guerreiro could make an abundance of sense for Liverpool, especially given they have been linked to the player in the past and will be acutely aware of his abilities.
According to Mellissa Reddy of The Independent, the six-times European champions considered signing the Portugal international to provide competition for Robertson in the summer of 2019. Ultimately, Klopp decided against signing the 27-year-old because he was impressed by Yasser Larouci on that summer’s pre-season tour.
Guerreiro was said to be asking for wages in the region of £60,000 per week and would have commanded a fee of £17,000,000, according to the report. Should the Reds look to sign the speedster again this summer, they could — given his contract only has two years remaining — potentially negotiate a similar price to secure his signature this time around.
Who better to provide Wijnaldum style defensive coverage for a full-back than a player with extensive experience and intuitive knowledge of the position? Such assurance would let Robertson bomb on forward, safe in the knowledge that he is being covered and the team won’t be vulnerable to the counter-attack. The former Lorient full-back — who played mainly in the engine room during Thomas Tuchel’s time at Dortmund — is accustomed to playing in the midfield of a high tempo, pressing team like Liverpool.
The 27-year-old also offers a creative passing game — he has scored 21 goals and assisted 24 times in 110 Bundesliga games — and is an adept set-piece taker with his trusty left foot.
The additional benefit is that Guerreiro would also provide coverage at left-back. Given his almost ceaseless schedule over the last four years, a jaded Robertson’s performances have predictably tailed off this season — something which captaining Scotland in the summer’s European championships won’t help — and he could do with a quality stand in that would allow him the scope to rest and recuperate.
The jury remains out on Kostas Tsimikas, given the Greek international left-back has barely played for Liverpool this season thanks to injuries and the fact that throwing a newcomer into the mess that has been the Reds’ backline this season is inadvisable, but based on their respective careers to date, Guerreiro is a superior left-back to Tsimikas.
The defending English champions will likely be in for a busy summer, and a move for Dortmund’s Portuguese flier would be a sensible start.