Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has tipped Gini Wijnaldum to “reach his level” with Liverpool, as his importance continues to grow for club and country.
Koeman believes Wijnaldum has come into his own since joining the Reds from Newcastle in 2016, overcoming a “difficult time” in the Dutch national team.
The 28-year-old is now one of the first names on the team sheet for both Liverpool and the Netherlands, and should start in Friday’s clash with France in his hometown of Rotterdam.
Speaking ahead of the game at De Kuip, while Koeman suggested he disagreed with Jurgen Klopp over Wijnaldum’s best position, he added that this is a marker of his crucial role.
“First of all, he plays for a great team at a high level,” the former Everton manager told reporters on Thursday.
“He is also more experienced that he was a couple of years ago.
“He is a so-called multi-functional midfielder. His best position is to play as an attacking midfielder, but at Liverpool he’s shown he’s able to play as a controlling midfielder.
“He’s a team player as well. He’s not someone who thinks he is more important than the team.
“He always tries to make other players better. He is a great player to work with.
“He’s had a difficult time in the Dutch national team—now he is ready to reach his level at Liverpool.”
Klopp, blessed with a variety of options following the signings of Naby Keita and Fabinho, has rotated his midfield throughout the season so far—but the one near-constant is Wijnaldum.
He has started all but one Premier League game, replacing the injured Jordan Henderson at half-time in the 1-0 win over Huddersfield, and has completed the full 90 minutes in nine.
Wijnaldum has been an ever-present in the Champions League, and the only game he has missed so far came with the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in the League Cup.
Only Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have featured in every Liverpool game so far, but Wijnaldum joins Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, James Milner and Sadio Mane on 16 appearances.
Alisson (1,440), Van Dijk (1,405), Mane (1,402) and Salah (1,375) are the only players to clock more minutes (1,353); last season he was third (3,600).
He has been largely consistent, too, and with this coming in a variety of roles—from a deeper, controlling role or as a more progressive, attacking midfielder—it is hugely impressive.
Having laughed off rumours of a summer move to Fenerbahce, Wijnaldum has defied expectations to remain Klopp’s key man in the middle.