Thiago, Georginio Wijnaldum & the Transfer Triangle That Makes Sense for Everyone

Robbie Copeland
Wijnaldum and Thiago may both have new clubs next season
Wijnaldum and Thiago may both have new clubs next season / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Initially, Liverpool's interest in Thiago - for all it was heavily, heavily reported - didn't quite make sense.

Putting aside some wishful thinking from the FIFA generation of fans, a famously frugal Liverpool board putting down €20m on an injury-prone 29-year-old, on massive wages, to add to a position in which they are already well-stocked - the rumours just weren't squaring with reality.

With Ronald Koeman's appointment as Barcelona manager, however, comes a crucial piece of the jigsaw. It's unclear if there is any substance to reports linking Georginio Wijnaldum with a reunion with his former international manager, or if it's just the logical joining of dots - but there's no denying it makes sense.

Even before Koeman's arrival in Catalonia, the 29-year-old had been reluctant to extend his deal beyond 2021. While his all-smiling, easy-going nature means there is virtually no chance of him forcing through a move and burning bridges at Anfield, it's clear he is hedging his bets and now he has accomplished all he can on Merseyside, he is considering a new challenge - either now or in 12 months.

The fact that Wijnaldum scored ten goals in 17 international games for Koeman, and is now wanted to help him rebuild Barcelona into a European powerhouse, will figure into his thinking. If he does see his long-term future away from Liverpool, then this is a unique opportunity he can scarcely afford to spurn.

Those who judge players on goals, assists, OVR ratings on FIFA and the type of boots they wear would tell you that Thiago in, Wijnaldum out is a no-brainer. A clear, obvious improvement on a squad that just won the Premier League with eight games to spare. This is not the case.

Make no mistake about it: no matter what the circumstances, it would be a tragedy to see Wijnaldum leave. He fits Jurgen Klopp's midfield like a glove, his tenacity, drive and press-resistance such a significant factor in their rise to the top of the English and European game.

He may not have the stats to back it up, but he is one of the top central midfielders around, and ahead of their first title defence in 30 years, he will take some replacing.

Liverpool's transfer strategy, however, is geared towards market opportunities. Their plans can change in an instant if a financially sensible deal becomes available - you only have to look as far as Fabinho in 2018 or Takumi Minamino in January for that.

They are also the masters of making the best of a bad situation, and that's exactly what they can do here.

Selling Wijnaldum is far from ideal, but selling Wijnaldum - out of contract in 12 months - and immediately replacing him with a long-running target of Klopp's, on a long-term contract which means they will not be left floundering in a year's time...whichever way you look at it, it makes sense.

As with any transfer, it comes with risks. Thiago is injury-prone - which is usually a major red flag for the Anfield recruitment team - and there is no guarantee he will be able to step into Wijnaldum's vital ball-carrying midfield role. He would also be on a massive salary, and would represent a break from protocol - he would be a risk.

But risk, when calculated, can breed reward - Virgil van Dijk worked out after all.

Thiago may not be available for 90 minutes twice a week like the ever-present Wijnaldum, but with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and James Milner all available to join Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in midfield, there will be no shortage of cover.

You could argue that what he brings to the table when he is on the pitch justifies his questionable fitness record. Liverpool have lacked his sort of fearless, swaggering creativity from deep, while he also puts in a shift - he made more tackles over the course of Bayern's last three Champions League matches than any other player.

A bizarre triangle could be completed should Bayern look to acquire one of the Barcelona players displaced by Wijnaldum. Ivan Rakitic or Arturo Vidal could replace his experience, while youngster Carles Alena comes in a similar, albeit less established mould to Thiago when he joined the German club in 2013.

It's an unprecedented situation, but should everything fall into place, it seems to work. Barcelona can secure a reasonably cheap, reliable player who fits with their new manager's philosophy, and Liverpool are able to replace him at minimal if any extra cost, while freeing Bayern of a player who is seemingly desperate to leave.

At Liverpool, this should be viewed as the solution to a problem that has not yet transpired, the contingency plan for the priority of keeping Wijnaldum long-term. It says a lot about the strength of plan B, however, that the fanbase seems split at its core over which is the best way forward.

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