The sight of Gini Wijnaldum holding aloft another club’s shirt was one that many Liverpool fans had hoped they would not have to experience for a few years to come.
The Dutch midfielder, a free agent this summer after failing to agree an extension at Anfield, finally signed in at the Le Parc des Princes as the Parisien club swooped to sign the player from under the noses of Barcelona.
The mere fact that two European clubs that have the resources to seriously call themselves Champions league contenders every season, were both vying for the signature of Wijnaldum, is testament of the level that the Dutchman’s stock has risen too during his time with the Reds.
Whilst two of Europe’s finest have shown themselves to be huge admirers of his talents, the former Liverpool number five hasn’t always received the most resounding support from then Liverpool fans.
Whilst it’s fair to say that the majority of Liverpool fans appreciated what Wijnaldum brought to Jurgen Klopp’s team, there was a very vocal section of fans on social media, who were not so glowing in their appraisal of his contributions.
And it seems that some of the disparaging comments posted on social media platforms did not go unnoticed by the new PSG number 18.
“When it went bad, I was the player who they blamed,” explained Wijnaldum during an interview with The Guardian.
“On social media, if we lost, I was the one who got the blame. There was a moment when I was like: ‘Wow. If they only knew what I was doing to stay fit and play every game.’
The Dutch international’s comments serve to show that the criticism he received on social media following games clearly disappointed him, but he was also quick to differentiate between the fans on social media and those who attend matches at Anfield.
“My feeling was that the fans in the stadium and the fans on social media were two different kinds. The fans in the stadium always supported me. Even when they came back [after the Covid lockout], already knowing that I was going to leave, they still supported me and, in the end, they gave me a great farewell.”
The player feels that his well-documented stand-off with owners FSG over a new contract, made him an easy target during a difficult season for Klopp’s men.
Liverpool’s title defence was put under the microscope following a series of shock defeats which included a run of six losses in a row at Anfield.
“There was a story that Liverpool made an offer, I didn’t accept because I wanted more money and the fans made it like: ‘OK, he didn’t get the offer, so he doesn’t try his best to win games.’”
The player, affectionately known as ‘Gini’, has not cited the negative attention that he received from fans on social media as his reason for leaving, but they have clearly left a sour taste in the mouth of a player who achieved so much at the club.
During his five years at the club he won the Champions League, Club World Cup, European Super Cup and was part of a squad that ended Liverpool’s title drought by bringing home the first Premier League title for the club – their first league title in 30 years.
In his final season at the club, the midfielder played in all 38 league games, only four of those coming from the bench, in a season when key figures who had played such a vital part in the previous title winning season were lost to injury.
Wijnaldum will most likely claim his finest moment in a Liverpool shirt as the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona at Anfield, where he came off the bench to score two vital goals that helped Liverpool turn around a 3-0 deficit.
But in a Liverpool shirt, the Dutch International was not known for his goal scoring prowess, yet in the orange shirt of his homeland, he would regularly find himself on the score sheet, much to the frustration of some Reds fans.
But the reality was that he was asked to do a different job for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Often the watercarrier, the player that helped break up play.
But he then had the ability to carry the ball forward with pace, retain possession in tight situations and chip in with the odd vital goal here and there.
His value to Klopp was immeasurable and despite the looming shadow of his departure at the end of the season, it was Wijnaldum who Klopp entrusted the armband too with Jordan Henderson and James Milner side-lined.
Only time will tell how adversely ‘Gini’s’ departure will impact Klopp’s team and style of play and indeed whether FSG will back the manager in terms of finding a suitable replacement.
But judging by the send-off that he received at the end of last season, it’s clear to see that his presence will be sorely missed, both on and off the pitch, by his teammates, manager, backroom staff and the fans inside the stadium who loved singing the ‘Gini Wijnaldum’ anthem.