Pepijn Lijnders explains what made Jurgen Klopp “fall for” Gini Wijnaldum

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Pepijn Lijnders has given an interview in his native Netherlands, and explained the qualities that made Jurgen Klopp “fall for” Gini Wijnaldum as a player and person.

During Klopp’s time as Liverpool manager, only Roberto Firmino (235) has made more appearances than Wijnaldum (184), with the Dutchman a near ever-present in his four seasons with the club.

But the subtlety of his game has ensured he remains a divisive figure among sections of the support, and with his contract currently due to expire in 2021, some have called for an upgrade.

It can certainly be argued that Liverpool’s midfield is the one area that could improve with reinforcement, given how strong the Reds are in goal, defence and attack, but it seems Klopp is sold on his No. 5.

Speaking to Dutch publication AD, Lijnders was asked about what makes Wijnaldum “an ideal Liverpool player,” and the assistant manager outlined why Klopp is such an admirer.

“What Jurgen fell for was his drive on the ball, and at the same time how Gini can pop up in the 16-yard box without the ball,” he explained.

“He now also has the urge to always ask more from the team. A real personality, just like Virgil.

“And Wijnaldum is pre-eminently such a player who fits into different roles.”

BARCELONA, SPAIN - Wednesday, May 1, 2019: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum during the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final 1st Leg match between FC Barcelona and Liverpool FC at the Camp Nou. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Wijnaldum’s versatility has seen him play in almost every role for Liverpool, including most recently at left-back, shifting over to the role when Andy Robertson was brought off late into the 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.

Most famously, he filled in up front with Roberto Firmino unable to start in the Champions League semi-final first leg at Barcelona last season, in a surprise move by Klopp.

Lijnders outlined this as a plus-point for Wijnaldum, along with his show of respect to Firmino upon experiencing the difficulty of the role.

“He played very well, although we lost 3-0,” the 37-year-old continued.

“In the dressing room, he immediately walked over to Bobby Firmino, the actual striker, who was not fit enough to start.

“He said, ‘Bobby, do you do this every game? Respect! I now see how hard it is’. That is beautiful.

“Everyone is responsible for everything, we say. But nothing works better than when players themselves know what everyone’s position demands.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 7, 2020: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Lijnders describing his compatriot as a “real personality” is a testament to the leadership he has developed at Anfield, to the extent he has been voted ‘fourth captain’ by his team-mates.

Detailing the standards set by the club’s senior players on and off the pitch, Lijnders highlighted Wijnaldum as the perfect example for two of their fellow Dutchmen.

“In Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg, there are also two Dutch talents who are now working with us and doing well,” he said.

“You only get better if you have to defend every day against Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah.

“What could be better than hearing from Wijnaldum how he experiences his profession?

“They see how Salah and Mane are at the gym 45 minutes before each session. They see what those boys eat at the club. The unwritten rules: how to deal with physios, with canteen staff? We like that.”

Given Wijnaldum’s contract is running down, it is a concern that Liverpool could lose one of their most influential players at a time when Adam Lallana—a player routinely praised as a dressing-room leader—is also preparing to depart.

But according to journalist Fabrizio Romano, the club are “still confident” a new deal can be agreed with the midfielder, which should please both Klopp and Lijnders.

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