In football, the term unsung hero is a little paradoxical in the sense that the moment we offer recognition signals an end to the player’s anonymity. Nevertheless, a seemingly relentless conveyor belt of those underrated stars is a characteristic that stands Liverpool out from the crowd – at least with regards to the top table of famous football clubs. Is Dutchman Georginio Wijnaldum the new man set to take that crown?
The summer departure of Lucas Leiva to Lazio has certainly opened up a space for a cult hero who probably won’t gain the plaudits outside of Anfield, and its his former midfield teammate who has emerged as the chief candidate. A strong debut season on Merseyside hasn’t gone completely unnoticed by pundits or fans, but Wijnaldum has rarely been mentioned as having the same importance of Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, or Emre Can.
In spite of scoring a very respectable six goals in 36 Premier League appearances, Wijnaldum’s attacking support has often been completely ignored. Perhaps that’s because many had expected the Dutchman to occupy a wide attacking role rather than the central berth that transpired throughout 2016-17. While many English fans had been surprised by that development, Dutch experts like Onlinewedden.com have highlighted “Gini’s” spell as a central midfielder at PSV as evidence of the attributes shown during his time at Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s high-pressing philosophies rely heavily on midfielders capable of producing quick transitional play, and Wijnaldum fits the bill perfectly. This is perhaps best summed up by a dribbles stat of 1.8 per game as per Whoscored.com. Without stealing the headlines in the same way as Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firminio and Sadio Mane, the Dutchman’s presence has been invaluable. Moreover, his level of playing time is testimony to his immense importance.
The unsung hero tag has often been associated with James Milner, due to the Englishman’s willingness to plug virtually and gap in the Reds’ XI with industrious efficiency. After well over a decade of performing at the top for various Premier League clubs, though, the notion of Milner being unheralded is more than a little off the mark. Managers, players, pundits, and fans all know about the utility man’s qualities. On a separate note, the fact he has yet to feature regularly in 2017-18 should not be ignored.
Wijnaldum on the other hand almost goes unnoticed by many. Perhaps he is still yet to fully escape the shadows caused by the fact that he joined from a relegated Newcastle United for a fee of £23m plus add-ons. Or maybe wearing the number five shirt has had a damaging impact on the opinions of some supporters. After all, the smallest of ingredients can have a huge influence on the recipe for fans’ reception.
The Dutchman has shown his star quality in a poor national side in recent times. As far as his club career is concerned, though, ticking over nicely for the good of the team seems to be more than enough for Wijnaldum. It’s something Klopp seems to appreciate, even if some sections of the Anfield army (and football fans in general) do not.