There seems to be some uncertainty about the situation of Georginio Wijnaldum in recent months. The Dutchman’s current deal at Liverpool runs out in the summer of 2021, with reports not really showing too many promising signs of potential renewal. As much as it presents a sad situation for Reds fans, it won’t be the end of the world at all – they’ll be more interested in what to expect about free spins 2021 than transfer rumours not happening.
That isn’t to say that Wijnaldum wasn’t an influential player. His brace against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final second-leg would be a memorable moment for fans of the current generation. His work rate in midfield is a pleasure to watch after he took a lot of fitness advice. But having said that, the club could be making a very good decision in replacing him with Denis Zakaria.
The Swiss midfielder has already drawn links with the Reds in the past. Considering he plays at a Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach, the links with Jurgen Klopp are rather obvious ones. But as for Zakaria, his move to Gladbach from Young Boys had come two years after Klopp had graced Anfield with open arms.
Since then, the midfielder has become one of the best players in the Foals side. A versatile central midfielder by trade, Zakaria is capable of playing as the destroyer in defensive midfield or playing as that workhorse slightly further forward.
Under Marco Rose in the 4-3-1-2 shape this season, Zakaria has taken up the role of the defensive midfielder on a consistent basis. He has made 18 Bundesliga appearances, also scoring twice and assisting once. He has won 2.4 tackles per game, making 1.6 interceptions per game too.
While those numbers show his ball-winning ability, he isn’t just that. Zakaria has completed 2.1 dribbles per game this season- a proof of how he constantly looks to take the ball into advanced areas. He’s a lot like Sandro Tonali- the Brescia youngster.
That is one aspect of the game that he’s improved this season. Last season, that stood at only 0.9. That also comes from how he was playing as a central midfielder- closer to goal. The need to dribble was much less. But his tackles won stat stood at only 1.3 last season- a sign that he’s improved in that aspect too.
Not just that, but Zakaria has been playing 38.2 passes per game this season with an accuracy of 86 percent. Both of them show an upgrade from last season. For a player who is still only 23 and is yet to reach his peak, that is a very good sign.
German football legend Lothar Matthaüs has spoken highly of the midfielder in the past. He once said: “I’m glad that Gladbach have found another pearl. At his age I was earning my first stripes for Borussia. He reminds me of Toni Kroos at that age.”
His passing numbers aren’t really the highest for someone Liverpool would like in defensive midfield. Because Fabinho has played 53.4 passes per game this season with an accuracy of 85.7 percent. Zakaria is yet to mould into that sort of a laid-back anchorman.
Those numbers are closer to Wijnaldum, who completed 46 passes per game. But Zakaria is a better tackler than the Dutchman, winning more interceptions per game than the former Magpie.
And Zakaria is still 23 and has miles to go before becoming a top performer. At a club like Liverpool, he’ll get the stability of a specific system. Since Wijnaldum’s deal runs out in the summer of 2021, he can be signed in the summer of 2020 to ease out the transition in the post-Gini era.
He might present the perfect move in the very first go. But at a young age, he will only develop into the role that he’s made to play in on a consistent basis.