EPL

Klopp pays tribute to Wijnaldum: You came, you saw, you won the lot

By Sports Desk June 10, 2021

Jurgen Klopp paid a fond tribute to "Liverpool legend" Georginio Wijnaldum after the midfielder's move to Paris Saint-Germain was confirmed.

The Dutchman has agreed a three-year deal with Mauricio Pochettino's side ahead of the expiry of his Reds contract at the end of June.

The news officially brings the curtain down on Wijnaldum's five-year stay at Anfield, which saw him win the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

And that has prompted Klopp to highlight the 30-year-old's contributions to a glorious era in Liverpool's history.

“As a team we said our goodbyes to Gini at Anfield after the final game of the season. There was the public farewell on the pitch with the guard of honour. But then a more private occasion also,” Klopp told the club's official website.

"It was difficult for all of us because of how much this astonishing person means to the group. He's been a big part of our lives for so long. There is nothing I won't miss about him."

Wijnaldum made 237 appearances for Liverpool across all competitions, scoring 22 goals.

"I will miss the player he is like crazy – highest-quality ability, one of the smartest players I have ever had the privilege to coach. His contribution was off the scale, a manager's dream," Klopp said.

"But as a person he'll leave just as big a hole. A more giving individual you could not wish to meet. Gini is very strong and opinionated, but his motivation is only to help the team – always. His team-mates adored him and respected him in equal measure.

"His smile lit up our workplace. He was a huge part of our beating heart. Of course, he is now someone else's and on behalf of the team we wish him great success in France with PSG.

"It is no surprise he's joined such an amazing club. Knowing his personality, he will fall in love with the city and the team – and they with him. Farewell, Gini: you came, you saw, you won the lot. You're a Liverpool legend now and forever."

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    The apparent protester, his chute emblazoned with 'Kick out oil', slowly circled his way towards the Allianz Arena pitch but collided with the mechanism by which the camera was suspended. Debris almost hit Didier Deschamps in the France dugout, while the man was given medical attention after coming to rest on the turf. Nobody was injured, thankfully.

    It turned out that surprising wonders dropping from the sky was the theme of the day, as France began their quest for continental glory with a 1-0 win in Munich. That's a circuitous route to talking about the spontaneous brilliance of Paul Pogba. No, honestly.

    Twenty minutes had gone in the first meeting of Group F's three big guns. Germany and France had nullified one another, their 3-4-3 and 4-3-1-2 systems keeping the previous two World Cup winners from laying a glove on each other. Before the game, Deschamps described these teams as the best two in the continent, and you could certainly not accuse either side of lacking respect for their opponents.

    Then, Pogba appeared. A throw-in from Benjamin Pavard, a one-two, a lay-off from Karim Benzema, and the ball was into the midfielder's feet. And then it was out of them, a languid, looping pass drifting over the heads of the German back three and into the path of Lucas Hernandez, the only player who seemed aware the move was even on. His mishit cross was promptly shinned into his own net by Mats Hummels, who was perhaps still wondering how the ball had got there.

     

    In many ways, it was a typical Pogba pass: it was incredible he even saw it but, once he had, of course he was going to try it. The Manchester United man is the king of the unanticipated, never shying away from the implausible, for whom the very idea of keeping it simple seems like an affront. At club level, it makes him a target for traditionalist critics; for France, he becomes the match-winner.

    One of Deschamps' real triumphs has been to construct an imperious unit out of France's mighty individuals. They allowed Germany more than 60 per cent of the possession but conceded only one shot on target, their defensive cohesion summed up by Antoine Griezmann sprinting back to challenge Joshua Kimmich on the right wing shortly before injury time.

    When the defence is this strong, and when N'Golo Kante is patrolling the middle, it gives Pogba the licence – the compulsion, even – to try the unexpected. It's why he rejected two simple passes to the left and drove away from his own box surrounded by three players, winning a free-kick that led to Adrien Rabiot hitting the post. It's why he found himself in the number 10 position 66 minutes in, another sublime square ball over the top finished stylishly by Kylian Mbappe but ruled out for offside. It's why Benzema's late tap-in was also disallowed, Mbappe having strayed beyond the last man because Pogba's attempt at an elaborate turn ended up delaying his own throughball.

    Pogba attempted 52 passes in total, more than anyone else for France. He had 78 touches, more than anyone else for France. He contested 20 duels, five aerial duels, won four fouls and made three interceptions – all more than anyone else for France. He won back the ball 12 times and gave it away a further 22, both, naturally, the highest figures in the contest.

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Italy – Leonardo Spinazzola

    Among defenders, only Denzel Dumfries (six) attempted more dribbles than Spinazzola (five) before Tuesday's matches, while only three players in his position completed more final-third passes than the Roma full-back (20).

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    Switzerland – Breel Embolo

    Any hope of penetrating the Italy defence is likely to come through Embolo, who scored Switzerland's opener in the 1-1 draw with Wales.

    No player had more shots (six) or more on target (three) in that game in Azerbaijan. He also had 10 touches in the opposition box, more than any player in the first four days of action – except, once again, for Dumfries (11).

     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - This is the first encounter between Italy and Switzerland in the European Championship. However, they have met in two previous major tournaments: in the 1954 World Cup (as hosts, Switzerland won both games: a group stage match and a play-off) and the 1962 World Cup (Italy won 3-0 in Chile, also in the group stages).
    - Italy have lost only one of their 24 games against Switzerland on Italian soil (W18 D5): it was a friendly in October 1982 at Rome's Stadio Olimpico (0-1), in what was Italy's first game after being crowned world champions three months previously.
    - Victory will see Italy become the first team to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020. However, the Azzurri have won both of their opening two matches in just two of their nine previous appearances at the finals, doing so in 2000 and 2016.
    - Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is looking to become the second-youngest goalkeeper in the history of the European Championship to keep a clean sheet in consecutive appearances (22y 111d on the day of this game), after Russia's Igor Akinfeev in June 2008 (22y 71d).
    - Switzerland's Haris Seferovic has had 13 shots in five appearances at the European Championship, including four in the first half of their 1-1 draw with Wales. However, he is yet to score in the competition.

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