Seven names on the Ballon d’Or shortlist is just reward for an exceptional 2019 for the Reds, which included bringing the European Cup back to Anfield.
Two goals in the semi-final comeback win over Barcelona likely influenced this decision, but it serves as deserved recognition for one of the most underrated midfielders in world football.
He is not undervalued at Liverpool, of course, and particularly not by Klopp, with the Dutchman in the top five for minutes played by an outfielder in every campaign since joining from Newcastle in 2016.
It is highly unlikely Wijnaldum will pick up the award in December, but discussing his nomination Klopp described him as “the perfect midfielder.”
“It is not my fault if he goes under the radar,” says Klopp.
“Gini speaks on the pitch with the way he plays.
“He is the perfect midfielder. He has all the things you need: both directions, small spaces, big spaces, hard challenges, fine football, all of that.
“Gini is a good personality in the dressing room. He is not the guy who says yes to everything.”
As squad-voted fourth-choice captain, Wijnaldum is a player not concerned with speaking his mind and challenging the manager’s decisions.
Most famously, this came with expressing his anger at initially being left out against Barcelona at Anfield.
“It’s not really a case of him knocking on my door but there are things he doesn’t like and that is normal,” Klopp continued.
“The perfect reaction was when I didn’t start him against Barcelona. Then he came on and scored two goals.
“Afterwards I said: ‘You scored twice’. He replied ‘yes, but that’s because you didn’t let me out’. I said: ‘So who is right now?'”
It is refreshing to hear of a player with such a vibrant, positive character still willing to go against the grain and question Klopp—at least constructively.
The pair clearly have a strong relationship—though in September, Wijnaldum labelled it “more or less hate and love“—and most importantly the 28-year-old can be trusted on the pitch.
But with his contract dwindling, and currently set to expire in 2021, the priority after Joel Matip‘s recent extension should surely be a new deal for Liverpool’s No. 5.