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Xabi Alonso prodigy can help Liverpool solve Gini Wijnaldum transfer dilemma – Liverpool.com

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https://www.liverpool.com/liverpool-fc-news/transfer-news/alonso-liverpool-gini-wijnaldum-transfer-20708927

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Liverpool have a big hole to fill in the centre of their midfield with Gini Wijnaldum departing, but the early indications are that a replacement might not necessarily be brought in.

Thiago Alcântara arrived last summer when it was anticipated that Wijnaldum could leave. One train of thought is that Thiago was always the Wijnaldum replacement and therefore another option this summer will not be added by Liverpool. That, though, would represent a risk.

Wijnaldum is not as good at passing as Thiago. He is not as good at organising and dictating the play as Jordan Henderson. He is not a patch on Fabinho as a number six. Nor is he as explosive as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. When it comes to pressing, creativity and ball progression, according to the underlying numbers, he is not as well-rounded as Naby Keïta. But what he is very much is better at all of them at is being consistent, available and injury-free.

That, in many ways, is the biggest thing that is missing from the Liverpool squad, and injuries were certainly the biggest downfall for Jürgen Klopp last season. The Reds simply cannot afford for there to be a repeat.

It could simply be that Liverpool are waiting to sell a few fringe players before they make a move for another player, having agreed to pay £36m up front for Ibrahima Konaté from RB Leipzig, but the idea of using Thiago to replace Wijnaldum is not totally nonsensical. Curtis Jones can step up again and Oxlade-Chamberlain will hope to use the summer as a window in which to get fit again and regain full sharpness.

Not replacing the body, though, even if not like-for-like, could leave Liverpool light. If they are not to sign a ready-made replacement for Wijnaldum to slot straight into the Liverpool side, another path should be considered as a result – and that is where Xabi Alonso comes in.

Alonso has earned many plaudits for his coaching career so far, which has been with Real Sociedad’s B team in the third tier of Spanish football. So successful has Alonso been, he was linked – very realistically – with the Borussia Mönchengladbach job left vacant by Marco Rose’s move to Borussia Dortmund. That never materialised in the end – Adi Hütter is now in charge – but that it was even considered likely for Alonso to take the step to the Bundesliga, and one of the better German teams at that, says a lot about his progression as a coach to date. There were even tentative links with Real Madrid’s top job after Zinedine Zidane departed last week, though those were quickly quashed.

With Sociedad’s B team, the emphasis is not on getting results, but on improving players and getting them into the first team. Alonso’s measure as a manager is not where he finishes in the table, but how many of his B team stars make the step up to work with senior Sociedad boss Imanol Alguacil and feature in LaLiga. There have been a few notable examples of that, not least Martín Zubimendi, who is set to star at the U21 Euros this week with his country, Spain.

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Zubimendi would not be a like-for-like Wijnadum replacement, but he would add a body, and a quality, younger one at that. There is no guarantee that he would want to leave Sociedad yet, though Alonso did himself to move to Anfield at the same age (22), but Zubimendi is certainly one to consider.

“The message with Zubimendi is that he is a complete La Real player,” Scouted Football’s Joe Donnohue told Blood Red for a special U21 Euros preview podcast.

“He comes from their youth academy, where they don’t have teams under the age of 13 and they pride themselves very much on enjoying football before it gets uber-serious.

“Zubimendi is very secure on the ball, as you would expect having worked under Alonso, and is playing alongside Mikel Merino, who was unfortunate to miss out on the senior Euros squad with Spain.

“Zubimendi is very classy – especially for an U21 tournament. He is one of those players that if you watch the game, you might miss him, but if you watch him, you see the entirety.

“Everything funnels through him at the base of the team and that is necessary for a team which, apart from Javi Puado, who scored goals in the group stage, needs help from midfield, with the number eights and Zubimendi behind able to allow them to do so.”

Without wanting to undo the work of Alonso at Real Sociedad, Liverpool could look to a player like Zubimendi to solve their Wijnaldum dilemma. If the Reds really are reluctant to replace Wijnaldum like-for-like, that is understandable, given the likes of Youri Tielemans, who have been tentatively linked, could cost £70m+. But adding another body is vital, and one who played 31 times in LaLiga last season at that would make sense – having a halfway house between a senior star and an up-and-coming talent (Zubimendi is older only, of the current Liverpool midfield crop, than Curtis Jones) could help bridge the gap.

Wijnaldum, quite simply, needs replacing. That does not have to mean an expensive, high-profile addition who would come in immediately and take the shirt of an existing player. But it does require another body capable of playing regularly, with the current Liverpool options limited when it comes to durability.

Playing mainly as a number six, Zubimendi could allow Liverpool to change their formation and play with two in that position more regularly in a 4-2-3-1 shape, or he could allow Fabinho to showcase his abilities further forward, that were evident at AS Monaco, but have yet to be seen at Anfield in a Reds shirt. More importantly, though, he would add a younger, quality option to a midfield that needs the security of numbers, and plenty in reserve.

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