Jurgen Klopp will not only face a big decision on how to replace Gini Wijnaldum on the pitch if he leaves Liverpool, but also how he covers the role of the Dutchman.
With less than a month to go into the current campaign, the focus is on the transfer market and an expected summer of change for Liverpool.
One of the stories that dominates the Reds’ business is the shrinking of Wijnaldum’s contract, which is now in the final two months of a deal that will expire on July 1.
Wijnaldum has been free to discuss a pre-contract deal with clubs outside England from the start of the year, and he will soon be allowed to speak with Premier League sides on a possible free transfer.
There remains the possibility of extending his stay in Merseyside, but his requests appear to be at odds with those Liverpool are prepared to offer.
A move to Barcelona has been touted, although the Spanish club’s precarious finances have meant that any speculation comes with a caveat, with Inter Milan, PSG and Chelsea among other teams linked to the no. ° 5.
This season only Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson have put in more minutes for Liverpool than Wijnaldum, who is set to play the most football in a single campaign in his five years with the Reds.
Klopp has only used six more players than the 30-year-old in his entire managerial career, with only one of them, Roberto Firmino, being part of his current squad.
Although his contribution has proven to be divisive among fans, it is clear that Klopp implicitly trusts Wijnaldum, and this is also true off the pitch – as he is currently named Liverpool’s fourth captain.
Jordan Henderson is captain and James Milner is vice-captain, but when not available Virgil van Dijk wears the armband, and if he is also absent Wijnaldum takes the lead.
“It wasn’t my decision. I decided that Hendo and Milly would stay [as captain and vice-captain], that’s 100% the logical thing to do, ”Klopp told reporters in 2018.
“It would have been like this if we had voted. [For the] the next two, players can vote.
“Now we have, as they say in Germany, ‘the salad’, because now two Dutch people are in a row.
“The team chose n ° 3 for Virgil and n ° 4 for Gini Wijnaldum.
“If someone told me that this would happen in my life, as a German with two Dutch in such an important role ?! No, it’s the players’ decision. “
Wijnaldum has started six games as captain so far this season, most recently against former club Newcastle in last month’s 1-1 draw at Anfield.
His approach may be less vocal than his fellow managers, but he is clearly appreciated by a manager who, despite his protests to the contrary, recognizes the importance of an appointed captain on the pitch.
This is underlined by at least one of Henderson, Milner, Van Dijk and Wijnaldum from all match this season, even in the early rounds of the League Cup and the FA Cup third round match with the Aston Villa academy.
The likes of Yves Bissouma and Sander Berge have been hinted at as possible Wijnaldum replacements on the pitch, but Klopp will also be aware of losing one of his locker room leaders.
It could come down to another vote – if Wijnaldum leaves – with lead contenders Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, while Salah could claim the role as well.