90min
Liverpool

The candidates to replace Georginio Wijnaldum at Liverpool

Ross Jackson
Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool future is still far from certain
Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool future is still far from certain / Visionhaus/Getty Images
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After five seasons and a boatload of great memories, Gini Wijnaldum is no longer a Liverpool player, leaving a near-irreplaceable void both as a player and owner of the Premier League's best smile.

With the ever-present midfielder no longer, well, present, here's a look at the realistic replacements Liverpool could be looking at this summer, given budget constraints, strategy and availability.


1. Renato Sanches (Lille)

Renato Sanches
Could Renato Sanches be set for another spell in English football / BSR Agency/Getty Images

Age: 23
Value: £20-30m
Pros: Similar profile to Wijnaldum
Cons: Previous struggles in the Premier League

After an underwhelming first spell in English football with Swansea back in 2017/18, Renato Sanches has rebuilt his career with Lille where he won the Ligue 1 title in 2021.

Once dubbed a future superstar, the Portugal international's game has developed hugely since his failed Premier League stint, and his technical ability on the ball along with his energy and work rate mean he could be a solid replacement for Wijnaldum with real long-term potential.


2. Piotr Zielinski (Napoli)

Piotr Zielinski
Liverpool could turn to Napoli's Piotr Zielinski / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Age: 27
Value: £35-50m
Pros: Versatile, just finished best ever season for goal contributions
Cons: Slightly older than a typical FSG signing, expensive

Piotr Zielinski looked to be heading for Merseyside back in 2016, only for Napoli to swoop in late on and convince the Poland international to remain in Italy.

The 27-year-old is noted for his ability to carry the ball from deep - something which may appeal to Jurgen Klopp with Naby Keita struggling to adapt to life in England.

Zielinski signed a new deal with Napoli just last year, meaning would will be forced to dig deep into their pockets if they really wanted to secure the services of the midfielder.


3. Florian Neuhaus (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Florian Neuhaus
Youngster Florian Neuhaus has been listed as a potential replacement / Lars Baron/Getty Images

Age: 24
Value: £35-45m
Pros: Versatile, box-to-box operator
Cons: Deadline for release clause has passed, Bayern Munich interest

Florian Neuhaus has been a fixture in the Borussia Monchengladbach starting XI for a number of seasons now, and at just 24 years of age he's attracting interest from a number of top clubs.

Already with three caps for Germany to his name, Neuhaus' best attributes are his sublime passing ability and his nous in and around the final third.

The Monchengladbach man's rate of progression in recent seasons has been incredible, and he could prove to be an exciting project if that's the avenue Klopp looks to explore.

Liverpool were heavily linked earlier in the year, but reports claim the expiry of a release (supposedly around €40m) at the end of May caused them to rethink their plans.


4. Yves Bissouma (Brighton)

Yves Bissouma, Conor Gallagher
Yves Bissouma has established himself in the Brighton midfield / Pool/Getty Images

Age: 24
Value: £40-50m
Pros: One of the Premier League's best defensive midfielders
Cons: Expensive

Brighton have pretty much done the hard work when it comes to helping Yves Bissouma settle into English football.

The former Lille man struggled initially following his move from Ligue 1, but he's really started to flourish this season and has become an integral part of Graham Potter's side.

The Mali international won't offer as much going forward as Wijnaldum, but his combative style of play could help release the shackles of some of Liverpool's other midfielders.

No Premier League midfielder made more tackles in 2020/21 (104) than Bissouma.


5. Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig)

Marcel Sabitzer
Marcel Sabitzer is rumoured to be being watched by a number of Europe's big-hitters / Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Age: 27
Value: £15-20m
Pros: Last year of contract, good relationship with Red Bull
Cons: Slightly older than most FSG signings

Marcel Sabitzer was rumoured to be on Tottenham's wish list during the January transfer window, and you can guarantee other clubs will be interested this summer.

The Austria international enjoyed another fine campaign having notched nine goals in all competitions as RB Leipzig captain last season.

Some reports in Germany have even suggested Sabitzer could leave on the cheap with his contract just one year from expiry.


6. Houssem Aouar (Lyon)

Houssem Aouar
Houssem Aouar has been courted by Arsenal recently along with a host of other sides / Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Age: 23
Value: £15-25m
Pros: Real goalscoring threat, perfect age bracket
Cons: Dealing with Lyon, unproven outside of France

Courted by Arsenal last summer, Houssem Aouar is young, talented and has bags of potential.

The 23-year-old is far from an exact fit in terms of looking for a direct Wijnaldum replacement, though his ability to run with the ball and make an impact in the final third mean Klopp may well be tempted to add something different to his midfield.

Aouar is likely to attract interest from a whole host of clubs this summer, and with Lyon in need of cash, it could be a smart move - even if it means bringing up memories of the Nabil Fekir saga.


7. Franck Kessie (Milan)

FOOTBALL-OLY-2020-2021-TOKYO-CIV-KSA
Kessie went to Tokyo to represent Ivory Coast at the Olympics / YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Getty Images

Age: 24
Value: £25m
Pros: Goalscoring threat, all-action midfielder, one year left on contract
Cons: Potentially high wage demands, may prefer to stay in Italy

The Ivorian midfielder enjoyed his most impressive season to date with Milan in 2020/21, scoring 13 times as the Rossoneri secured Champions League qualification.

His drive from midfield could add a new dimension to Liverpool, while his contract situation means he will never be more attainable.

Reports suggest he is looking for north of £100k a week to stay in Milan, which remains his preference.


8. Saul Ñiguez

Saul Niguez
Saul looks like he could be set to leave Atletico Madrid / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Age: 26
Value: £30-40m
Pros: Hugely experienced at highest level, versatile,
Cons: form has waned in recent years, expensive wages

A Steven Gerrard fanatic as a boy, Ñiguez to Liverpool rumours initially made a lot of sense when they first arose.

The midfielder is still only 26, but has more top-level experience than most and can play in just about any position needed across the midfield.

However, the reason he is available is because Atleti have watched his form dip in the last year, while he would demand wages to match Liverpool highest earners.


9. Ryan Gravenberch

Ryan Gravenberch
Gravenberch is tipped for super stardom / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Age: 19
Value: £30-40m
Pros: Huge potential, experienced winner at Ajax
Cons: Competition for signature, may remain in Eredivisie for another year

Already able to play in a number of roles in the midfield, Gravenberch occupies that bracket along with Eduardo Camavinga as one of Europe's most exciting young midfielders.

At 6ft 3in and with a great passing range, he has been compared to Paul Pogba, though has typically played a deeper role.

Maybe Virgil van Dijk could have a quiet word about his future...

However, back in May, Gravenberch's dad hinted that his son would remain at Ajax for at least another season.


10. No-one

Naby Keita
Do Liverpool already have the right man to replace Wijnaldum? / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Age: N/A
Value: N/A
Pros: Chance for others to step up, save money for other areas
Cons: No shiny new signing, risk lack of depth in injury crisis

Not a popular one, granted, but can Liverpool live without a new midfielder for another year?

Asssuming the first-choice engine room is: Jordan Henderson, Thiago and Fabinho, Klopp can still call on Naby Keita, James Milner, Curtis Jones and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as squad options.

It may be wishful thinking, but a fully fit season with less competition for places may be just what Keita in particular needs to prove why Liverpool paid big for him all those years ago.

In addition, youngsters like Leighton Clarkson, Jake Cain and James Balagizi may be ready for more first-team exposure.


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