Gini Wijnaldum admission a warning to Liverpool stars as Philippe Coutinho echoes clear
It’s fair to say Gini Wijnaldum isn’t happy at his new club Paris Saint-Germain so far.
The Dutch midfielder left Liverpool last summer after the club and player failed to agree on terms for a new contract. Wijnaldum, 30, wasn’t offered the sizeable long-term deal he had hoped for.
FSG generally don’t tie down players pushing past their 30th birthdays to long contracts, although exceptions have been made (Jordan Henderson, for example).
Wijnaldum seemed on the verge of Barcelona but then pivoted late on to sign for PSG on a reported £300,000-per-week. However, judging from comments he’s made recently, it may not have been the smartest move.
“I’m a fighter. I have to stay positive and work hard to turn it around,” Wijnaldum told Dutch outlet NOS.
“I have played a lot in recent years, was always fit and also did very well. This is something different and that takes getting used to.
“I was really looking forward to the new step and then this happens. It is very difficult.”
Wijnaldum’s start to life in the French capital hasn’t been ideal, to say the least. He’s only started and finished two Ligue 1 games since the beginning of the season. In addition, he’s only started five of their opening nine league games, clocking up 426 minutes.
In the Champions League, he’s only started once, and came on for a mere 12 minutes against Man City in the last matchday before the international break.
In total, Wijnaldum has played 502 minutes in all competitions.
It’s uncertain if current PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino is a fan of Wijnaldum. The battle for places in the PSG midfield is admittedly fierce, with the likes of Ángel Di María, Marco Verratti, Ander Herrera, Danilo Pereira, Idrissa Gueye and others all fighting for three places in the middle of the pitch.
Wijnaldum’s case is another cautionary tale in the long list of ‘the grass is not always greener’ idiom.
Wijnaldum reportedly wanted £200k-per-week to remain at Anfield, which would’ve put him in the top bracket of earners at the club. Moreover, the 30-year-old has since hinted that he left the club in part due to the ferociousness of the Liverpool support online.
“When it went bad, I was the player who they blamed – that I wanted to leave,” he said in July.
“On social media, if we lost, I was the one who got the blame. There was a moment when I was like: ‘Wow. If they only knew what I was doing to stay fit and play every game.’ Other players might have said: ‘OK, I am not fit.’
“You get players in their last year who are like: ‘I’m not playing because it is a risk.’ I did the opposite.
“My feeling was that the fans in the stadium and the fans on social media were two different kinds. The fans in the stadium always supported me. Even when they came back.
“Already knowing that I was going to leave, they still supported me and, in the end, they gave me a great farewell.”
Online abuse should never be tolerated, yet perhaps if Wijnaldum had lowered his contract demands, Liverpool would’ve met them and he would’ve remained. His story is now beginning to echo that of Philippe Coutinho.
Coutinho’s standing in the world game has plummeted in the last three-and-a-half years. He yearned to play for Barcelona, got his move, and it all went south very quickly, to such an extent that his greatest moment since joining was scoring against them for Bayern Munich in the 8-2 Champions League semi-final demolition in the summer of 2020.
Coutinho’s move has gone down as one of the worst in football history. Now, it’s too early to say if Wijnaldum will be another Coutinho, given that it’s still relatively early in the season and that he signed for PSG as a free agent, but he’s struggling to hold down a place in the starting XI, and at 30, time is very much of the essence.
Perhaps Pochettino is still tinkering with his squad in light of having so many options to choose from. Perhaps it will all come good for Wijnaldum as the season progresses.
But his current plight, in addition to the now infamous Coutinho tale, is another reminder to players that leaving Anfield, and losing the chance to play under Jürgen Klopp, isn’t necessarily the best move for one’s career.
Time will tell if Wijnaldum really is another Coutinho, but the move has not gone to plan so far.