Gini Wijnaldum announced his departure from Liverpool at the end of the season, and the Dutchman was hailed as a “true legend” by team-mates who recognise his key role.
As of July 1, Wijnaldum will no longer be a Liverpool player, with no agreement reached over a new contract and the midfielder due to leave on a free transfer.
It is a bittersweet situation for the 30-year-old, who is now looking for a “new adventure,” after five successful years with the Reds which saw him win the Premier League, Champions League, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
He wore the armband in his final appearance, in what was his 237th outing for the club, with only two players featuring more for Liverpool during Jurgen Klopp‘s reign so far.
Klopp will now face a difficult task in replacing not only Wijnaldum’s quality on the pitch, but also his influence off it, having been voted ‘fourth captain’ by the squad.
The manager admitted it was an “emotional” situation for him, and this was echoed by the player as he posted a statement following a guard of honour at Anfield:
Thank you for everything, I will miss you #YNWA ???? pic.twitter.com/kUsvxc3qbi
— Gini Wijnaldum (@GWijnaldum) May 23, 2021
Wijnaldum was a well-respected, hugely popular member of the Liverpool squad, and this was reflected as the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson paid tribute to the No. 5:
It’s been a privilege and an honour to have shared the pitch with you here brother ?? Thank you for everything you’ve done for this football club. You’ve helped create history and made dreams come true! pic.twitter.com/Z2zNOF0a4y
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) May 23, 2021
Thank you @GWijnaldum for everything you have done for this team and football club. It’s been a pleasure sharing a changing room and some incredible success with you. You will be sorely missed but I wish you and your family all the best in the future. #YNWA pic.twitter.com/tDlvFBOk3a
— Jordan Henderson (@JHenderson) May 23, 2021
Secondly, Gini you’re leaving Liverpool a true legend. An unbelievable player and an even better person. Thank you for everything you have done for us. Good luck for your next chapter my friend ??@GWijnaldum pic.twitter.com/HyjQRANLNF
— Andy Robertson (@andrewrobertso5) May 23, 2021
All the best bro been a pleasure ?? @GWijnaldum pic.twitter.com/D0gRuYPR9h
— Trent Alexander-Arnold (@TrentAA) May 23, 2021
We will miss you, bro! ?? https://t.co/5VgnOr1qLw
— Thiago Alcantara (@Thiago6) May 23, 2021
Robertson’s words, hailing Wijnaldum as “an unbelievable player and an even better person,” perhaps sum it up best, as Liverpool lose the full package.
It will be a tough task filling the void left by Gini’s exit, but it does present an opportunity for a new leader to step up, while his place in the side could even be filled by a player already in the squad.
Curtis Jones is a clear candidate, though it will be a big challenge for the 20-year-old to assume a responsibility underestimated by many.