Why doesn’t Gini Wijnaldum play for Liverpool like he does for Holland?
The midfielder was back on Sunday, scoring twice for his country in their UEFA Nations League triumph over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The brace saw Wijnaldum score nine goals in his last 12 appearances for his country, a total that includes a hat-trick against Estonia 12 months ago.
The 30-year-old among goals is nothing new. He scored 56 times in 154 appearances for PSV Eindhoven after leaving Feyenoord, and was Newcastle United’s leading scorer with 11 in 40 outings in his only season at Tyneside before Liverpool rushed for his services for 25 million pounds sterling in the summer of 2016.
With the Reds, however, he’s only been listed 19 times in 199 outings.
However, these strikes tend to be reserved for special occasions. Wijnaldum has scored three times in the Champions League semi-finals – including a memorable pair against Barcelona in 2019 – and also scored a Premier League winner against Manchester City.
He scored vital Anfield goals twice against Chelsea, returned home in a win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley, scored against Arsenal and capped last season’s 5-2 home derby rout over Everton.
Wijnaldum also scored the Champions League round of 16 second leg opener against Atletico Madrid in March, which gave the Reds hope for a memorable fight until they collapsed during extra time.
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The key to the Dutchman’s international form has been his position. In those dozens of most recent appearances, he’s started in an attacking midfielder role in all but three cases – and every goal this period has seen him in the forward position.
By comparison, Wijnaldum has started for Liverpool in such a role just eight times, the last time over 18 months ago.
His work under Jurgen Klopp has been different, a key element – he hasn’t appeared in just four Premier League games since March 2018 – than a usual midfielder trio or, on occasion, as part of ‘a central pivot for two.
With Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and most recently Diogo Jota up front, as well as more progressive midfielders such as Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri, Wijnaldum’s offensive leanings were not necessary. .
And there’s every chance the Netherlands international will find himself resuming a role as a defensive midfielder as he contemplates a historic 200th appearance at Liverpool this Sunday for the visit of Premier League leaders Leicester City.
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Jordan Henderson is in doubt after sustaining an injury as with England and Fabinho faces a race against time to recover from the hamstring issue that sidelined him for three weeks.
Wijnaldum, of course, has also played both defense and forward for Klopp, versatility that has made him an attractive proposition for potential suitors, with Inter Milan apparently joining Barcelona to consider a move next summer.
The player is in the final 12 months of his contract at Liverpool with long-stalled talks on an extension, and will be free to speak to foreign clubs in January.
Liverpool could still look to secure a new contract given Wijnaldum’s continued importance to the team, although few would blame him.
The reason why he doesn’t play for his club like he does for his country is simple: he doesn’t have to. And the Liverpool version of Wijnaldum remains to be cherished.