Roger Hunt laid to rest in Liverpool
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First things first, it’s important to be clear that Gini Wijnaldum’s preference was to stay at Liverpool. He made that crystal clear during an emotional Instagram post after Liverpool’s crucial victory over Crystal Palace on the final day that saw them secure Champions League qualification for next season, writing: “I would have loved to remain a Liverpool player for many more years, but unfortunately things went different. I have to start a new adventure.”
A few weeks later, Wijnaldum put pen to paper in Paris and was deemed a mega steal for the Ligue 1 giants, who signed one of Europe’s best midfielders on a free transfer.
The Dutchman was instrumental for Jurgen Klopp and an integral part of their Champions League and Premier League success under the German. The heartbeat of their side.
With PSG also adding Gianluigi Donnarumma, Archaf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi to their rank, nobody could begrudge Wijnaldum for choosing Paris as they go in search of their first-ever Champions League triumph.
But things have not gone to plan at all for the 30-year-old since arriving at the Parc des Princes where he finally linked up with Mauricio Pochettino, a manager who tried to sign him at Tottenham before his move to Liverpool from Newcastle.
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He started PSG’s opening four Ligue 1 matches as Troyes, Strasbourg, Stade Brest and Stade Reims were gunned down with relative ease.
However, Wijnaldum was then dropped to the bench for the 4-0 win over Clermont after the first international break of the season and has not started since.
The former Liverpool man has played a total of just 92 minutes in Ligue 1 since then and according to L’Equipe, he is expected to be on the bench this weekend against Angers.
Speaking during the international break, Wijnaldum conceded that he wasn’t best pleased with the situation as he made his feelings known.
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“I can’t say I’m completely happy,” he said in a press conference before Holland’s 6-0 demolition of Gibraltar.
“The situation is not what I wanted. I have played a lot in recent years, was always fit and also did very well.
“This is something different and that takes getting used to. I was really looking forward to the new step and then this happens. It is very difficult.
“That’s football and I’ll have to learn to deal with that. I’m a fighter. I have to stay positive and work hard to turn it around.”
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Wijnaldum would have undoubtedly stayed at Anfield should Liverpool have paid up and offered him the right contract but they decided to go in a different direction, for one reason or another.
The circumstances may be different but this is another example and lesson that the grass is not always greener beyond Liverpool.
Seven years ago when Luis Suarez traded Merseyside for Catalonia, it clearly was the case.
The Uruguayan went on to win the Champions League and numerous La Liga titles with Barcelona while forming one of the greatest ever front threes with Messi and Neymar.
But Philippe Coutinho’s career took a turn for the worse after pushing so desperately to leave Liverpool before finally earning a staggering £142m move in January 2017.
Jurgen Klopp was right about the Brazilian. He called it after Liverpool secured a top-four finish on the final day of the 2016/17 season with victory over Middlesbrough, eight months before Coutinho’s eventful departure.
The Liverpool boss was asked if he was fearful of losing Coutinho to Barcelona and his response was emphatic.
“Stay here and they will end up building a statue in your honour,” Klopp said, speaking indirectly to Coutinho.
“Go somewhere else, to Barcelona, to Bayern Munich, to Real Madrid, and you will be just another player. Here you can be something more.”
Coutinho was just another player at Barcelona, just like Wijnaldum is now just another player at PSG.
At Liverpool, he was adored by supporters, adored by his manager and although that should have been reflected in a new deal, it’s another valuable lesson for the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane that life beyond Anfield may not always work out for the better.
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