by Leo (@lfcleo)
In an interview with Dutch outlet NOS on Sunday, newly appointed Barcelona manager, Ronald Koeman, confirmed rumours that his side held (and will continue to hold) an interest in Gini Wijnaldum last summer.
In this exclusive interview, when asked about a potential deal for Lyon forward Memphis Depay, he said “hopefully we will have a second Dutchman in the squad”, then confirming his interest in Wijnaldum by asserting: “Wijnaldum was on my list [too].”
He rejected claims that he was looking to form a “Dutch revolution” at Barcelona and also rebuffed suggestions that he wanted to recreate Louis Van Gaal’s 1999/00 Barca side which was littered with Dutch stars.
Koeman confirmed that he is looking to add at least one more top Dutch international to his team, with compatriots Frenkie De Jong and Dutch-born US national team regular Sergino Dest joining in the last 15 months.
Since the reports of 'positive breakthroughs' in contract talks for Wijnaldum in June, there has been a deafening wall of silence. With eight months left on his current deal, there doesn't appear to be any indication of a deal extention being agreed anytime soon. And with a club of Barcelona's size potentially looking to start talks for a pre-contract deal in January, Liverpool will find it incredibly difficult to keep the Dutchman on the books.
Last month, the Catalan based publication SPORT reported that Wijnaldum had already agreed a three-year-deal with Barcelona and all that was left to do was to agree a fee with the Merseyside club.
Despite the prominent links throughout the entirety of the transfer window, Wijnaldum was quick to downplay the speculation when he was questioned about it on international duty a number of weeks ago.
Speaking to Dutch press, he said, "I don't think [the Barcelona interest] was that serious, otherwise you would have read a bit more, or more would have happened. There was nothing concrete about it."
He went on to add, "I will stay on with Liverpool it looks now. My contract will run for another 10 months. It could still change, of course you never know that in football. So we'll see."
Unlikely to renew ties...
That being said, and even despite Liverpool's impressive midfield depth and recent £20m capture of Thiago Alcantara, it is clear whether Gini remains a part of Klopp's long-term plans. Starting in all four of Liverpool's opening Premier League matches and also in the Community Shield back in August, it has become apparent that he won't be phased him out of the side.
The reliable James Pearce had this to say about the midfielder's future on the Athletic's 'Red Agenda' podcast:
"Rewind a few weeks, and the club's stance was very much that they would only proceed with the Thiago deal if another midfielder was to leave and clearly, they were braced for a bid from Barcelona. It was well-documented that Koeman is a massive fan of his, but that bid wasn't forthcoming and then the discussions that Klopp had with Wijnaldum after he came back from international duty were very positive."
"My information is that there's still no sign of him suddenly going to be putting pen to paper on a new contract. I'm sure Liverpool will have another try at trying to do that, but the word at the moment is that even if that doesn't happen, he will stay for the rest of the season."
It remains to be seen whether a compromise can be found between the club and the player's entourage regarding a new contract, or if the potential opportunity of a new challenge overseas as part of Koeman's new rebuild (which would likely give him licence to have a more free attacking role like his time under the Dutch boss in the national team) will see the Reds lose Gini on a free in a similar fashion to Emre Can.
Either way, it seems that Wijnaldum will remain a big part of Klopp's plans for this season, with Premier League clubs set for a gruelling, compact COVID-19 influenced schedule, where opportunities for rest are few and far between.