Who: Gini Wijnaldum
From Where: Liverpool
To Where: PSG
For How Much: Free Transfer
Grade For PSG: A-
Grade for Liverpool: B
GINI WIJNALDUM TO PSG OVERVIEW
We’ve known since the start of the ’20-21 season that Wijnaldum, who just completed the final season of his deal with Jurgen Klopp’s side, was almost certainly leaving Liverpool this summer. The questions were when he would depart and where he would land.
We now know that he’ll be suiting up for PSG in ’21-22. Speaking of his contract, he joins the Ligue 1 club on a free transfer and has reportedly inked a deal that will keep him in the French capital through the ’23-24 season.
I don’t want to put too much weight on the Dutch midfielder’s shoulders, but it seems feasible that he could very well take PSG to the … top of Ligue 1. With all due respect to Ligue 1 and Lille, am I the only one still floored by the fact that the Parisians lost their grip stranglehold on France’s top flight this season??
As for this move, though, this is a big get for PSG, even if Wijnaldum, who turns 31 in November, is probably near the end of – or slightly past – his prime. Expect a big ’21-22 season from the Dutchman, who will not only be playing under Mauricio Pochettino and alongside Neymar and Mbappe (assuming they stay put this summer), but against a slight downgrade in competition with the move from the EPL to Ligue 1.
WHO IS HE?
Plenty of players have posted more impressive statistics than Wijnaldum in recent seasons. But few have been more consistently reliable pieces of championship-caliber clubs than Wijnaldum – and we could have said that before the chaos of the ’20-21 season.
While injuries decimated his locker room this year, Wijnaldum showed little to no effects of the insanely compressed schedule he was forced to play for the Reds, starting 34 of 38 EPL matches in the midfield. His durability throughout the insanity of ’20-21 gave him three straight seasons with at least 32 Premier League starts. Dating back to the ’15-16 campaign he spent with Newcastle, Wijnaldum has started 30 or more EPL matches in five of the last six seasons.
And it’s not like he was playing such a prominent role on a team that was struggling. I’m not sure whether we’ve ever mentioned this on High Press Soccer, but Liverpool was pretty damn good in ’18-19 (UCL champs) and ’19-20 (EPL champs).
Interestingly, Wijnaldum – who was a “second-tier” Liverpool player after the likes of Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk and a few others – will once again be far from the biggest name on PSG’s roster. A guy who would be a star on a lot of clubs seems completely uninterested in being on a team where he’s “the man.” That says a lot about him, in a good way, if you ask me.
His skeptics might wonder how much he has left at his age, after all the mileage he’s accumulated over the last few seasons. I, however, look at his track record over the past six years and come away too impressed by his durability to question what his future holds, even if he’s approaching the “inevitable dropoff” age.
IS THE PRICE FAIR?
Free transfers – good deals if you can get them. This would have been a nice transaction for PSG even if they were paying a significant fee. But given the lack of a transfer fee, and how many people thought Wijnaldum was heading to Barcelona, this is a great deal for PSG. It looks even better when you consider these guys have quite a few players commanding all the money this team can afford to pay. (It’s not easy to test the spending limits of PSG owner Qatar Sports Investments, but Neymar and Mbappe and are doing their best).
WHAT IMPACT SHOULD WE EXPECT?
If there’s an asterisk associated with this signing, it’s the question of whether Wijnaldum can carve out a prominent role on this roster. The superstars up top are the first names that come to mind when you think PSG, but Wijnaldum is joining an absolutely loaded midfield. His competition for minutes will include Marco Verratti, Ander Herrera, Leandro Paredes and Julian Draxler, among others.
While he won’t have it easy, I still wouldn’t bet against Wijnaldum becoming a fixture in the PSG midfield.
Initially, I didn’t know whether to grade this a B or a B+. But a free transfer for a player this proven is a home run for the Parisians, if not a grand slam. It was also time for me to give someone something other than a B.
The Reds are losing a quality piece, but seemingly have been OK with Wijnaldum’s departure this offseason for quite a while. They got a hell of a run from a player they didn’t break the bank for back in ’16, and appear to be letting him walk on good (make that great… see below) terms.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) June 10, 2021