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Gini Wijnaldum's confirmed PSG move is everything Liverpool isn't

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The departure of Georginio Wijnaldum represents something of a sea change in Liverpool’s midfield. After five years at Anfield and 237 appearances for the club, the Dutchman’s accomplished and assured performances will be missed, with French champions Paris Saint-Germain confirming his arrival on Thursday afternoon.

Though he leaves Jürgen Klopp’s side with ample credit in the bank, it is his new employers who will be lining his account with well-earned riches. After ostensibly lining up to join Barcelona under his Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman, Wijnaldum has chosen Paris Saint-Germain after the Ligue 1 club seized control of the deal and the 30-year-old’s attention.



If reports are to be believed, PSG offered a three-year contract worth nearly double his Liverpool package. According to Sportrac, Wijnaldum was previously being paid £4.68m per year (£90,000 per week). Dutch outlet De Telegraaf report that this will speculatively increase to a post-tax amount of over £8.6million per year in the French capital (c. £165,000 per week).



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In recent history, PSG have been something of a no-fee finishing school for Valhalla. Over the past few seasons, they have added the following hardened cast on free transfers: Ander Herrara, Gianluigi Buffon, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Lassana Diara, Hatem Ben-Arfa, and Claude Makélélé. It is also perhaps worth mentioning David Beckham’s five-month swansong in Paris at the age of 37: his was a pro-bono season after he donated his entire salary to charity.



However, PSG are not the only miners of ‘old gold’. Other clubs have actioned similar strategies to capture players in their late 20s or early 30s, enticed by exorbitant wages, sign-on fees, and agent payments. Galactico-pining Real Madrid, the sometimes-Quixotic desperation of Barcelona, and a creaking Juventus, perhaps among the most obvious.

While Wijnaldum’s departure is one many Liverpool fans will mourn, it is not a departure from the club’s personnel philosophy; or, indeed, recent transfer policy. The congenital spirit at Anfield (and indeed Melwood the AXA Training Centre) is one of lean efficiency, baked-in meritocracy, market savvy, and tactical development.

The fruitful, cheap, and canny acquisitions of Andy Robertson and Xherdan Shaqiri –in successive seasons from relegated clubs – reminds us of the fact that Wijnaldum, too, was signed from Championship-bound Newcastle in 2016.

Five years later, he leaves a Liverpool midfield that potentially needs some minor injections of rejuvenation. Despite the welcome introduction of a 20-year-old Curtis Jones, with Jordan Henderson due to turn 31 this summer, Thiago now 30, and James Milner at the ripe age of 35, it is an engine room of seasoned workmen.

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Like Adam Lallana’s free transfer to Brighton and Hove Albion in 2020, one possible way to fully leverage Wijnaldum’s exit would be to see it as an opportunity to refresh the midfield. This, however, with the obvious proviso that Lallana was 32 when he left and lacked the steadfast ever-presence of the Dutchman.

It is perhaps a hard-nosed stance by top brass, but by allowing Wijnaldum to leave now the club may be trying to keep checks and balances in line. Both in terms of wage structure and the length of any possible deal that was on the table, and in terms of phasing in younger players into the squad.

On balance, it would be a category error to suggest that Liverpool operate on anything like the model of expensive and ageing players clubs like PSG have followed. Notwithstanding the anomaly of Thiago Alcântara.

Arriving last summer at the age of 29 – though not on a free – Thiago’s deal places him among the club’s very highest earners. In fact, his metronomic services reportedly attract a sum of £200,000 per week: the joint-highest with Mohamed Salah.

Bayern Munich were compensated to the tune of circa £20m with a further £5m in add-ons; however, this will be paid over the length of the 30-year-old’s four-year deal. Indeed, at the time of his initial entrance many conjectured it was the tacit intent of replacing Wijnaldum. But given Klopp’s love for Gini and his fulsome praise of him as the “architect of our success” it seems difficult to imagine he was ever unwanted in the squad.

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James Milner, too, could be included in a similar bracket. Also 29-years-old on arrival from Manchester City back in 2015, the evergreen former sky-blue banked bonuses and an approximate salary of £120,000 per week. In 2019, at 33, Milner signed a three-year extension at £140,000 to prevent a second stint as a free agent.

Not since a 32-year-old Rickie Lambert came up from the south coast for £4.5 million in 2014 have Liverpool signed an outfield player of note north of 30. (He was also the club’s most expensive 32-year-old, overtaking the £990 Neil McBain who joined from St Johnstone in 1928.) A special mention must also be made to Gary McAllister – 35-years-old when he arrived on a Bosman from Coventry City in 2000.

Under the late, great Gérard Houllier, the fortuitous and inspired signing of the Scotsman added crucial experience and decisive contributions to the Reds. From a legendary free-kick winner in the Merseyside Derby to pivotal penalties in the semi and showdown of the UEFA Cup in 2001, McAllister was one such grizzled addition never to be forgotten.

The rise of the most-recent graduates of Liverpool’s Academy has been meteoric: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones, Neco Williams et al. The new generation follows in the lionised footsteps of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler, and Steve McManaman. An accounting cynicism would say these players were worth their weight in gold – cost-effective apprentices.

While true, their emergence from within is tantamount to the legacy of Liverpool’s identity as a club that trains and evolves its own superstars. Although everybody will wish Wijnaldum well, his deal is a perfect example of everything Liverpool in 2021 isn't.


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