Gini Wijnaldum: I feel stronger than ever…

Next month Georginio Wijnaldum will celebrate 10 years on the highest level as pro football player. But the Liverpool midfielder is only 26 years old! He might have another 10 years ahead of him, who knows. The AD interviewed him on Mersey-side.

The interview is executed at the Hilton Liverpool. The waiter comes checking on him again. Every couple of minutes. “Is everything alright sir?”. Wijnaldum has a wry smile. “Yes, I’m fine, thank you…” It’s probably Wijnaldum’s life motto.

It’s almost 10 years since we saw Wijnaldum make his debut. The 2006/2007 season. Feyenoord vs FC Groningen. Coach Erwin Koeman allowed the youngster (16 years and 149 days old) his debut. Now, he’s active in the top of the EPL (like his former Feyenoord coach, who’s assistant coach at Everton). He looks at a photo from his debut, in De Kuip. “Hey look, it’s Karim Saidi! And there is Lindgren…wow time flies!”

gini debut

Making his debut for Feyenoord at 16

We’re 10 years further now. And between the first coach – Erwin Koeman – and current coach Klopp there were a number of other coaches of repute. Still, you feel Klopp is the best?

Wijnaldum: ,,Yes he is. He is so intense, so passionate. And he’s real. Authentic. He does make players and teams better. Not one or two. All of them. The way we play, with lots of movement, high press, creating space, the pace of the ball, you need to be top top fit! Our practice sessions are seriously tougher than the match. Literally, everything we do, we do at match-intensity.”

You worked under Louis van Gaal as well. But Klopp is better?

“Yes, but I didn’t work with Louis van Gaal at a club. It’s different. His practices were very good too. But I work with Klopp on a daily basis. They’re both real people, they both love their players. You can feel it. Van Gaal is simply amazing. When we started our WC campaign in 2014, he said: Gini, you might start in a controlling role in the team. Danny (Blind) says you are able to do it. I’m doubting it, but we will give it a go.”

Is that not a bit too honest?

“Why? I think it’s cool. He says what he thinks. And you could always debate him. I never saw him angry or pissed off. The WC in Brazil was special, unique. Before the match for the 3rd place against Brazil he called me out. He said “Shouldn’t you get on the score sheet now?”. And I did! I spoke about this with Leroy Fer. We grew up together. We’re very close. And we both scored at a World Cup. That is pretty special.”

fer gini oranje

With buddy Fer in Oranje U17

You say Klopp and Van Gaal are top coaches, and you immediately talk about their honesty?

“Well I have not worked with any coach that I couldn’t deal with, to be honest. And I am proud of the coaches I worked with: Erwin Koeman, Bert van Marwijk, Gertjan Verbeek, Leon Vlemmings, Mario Been, Dick Advocaat, Fred Rutten, Phillip Cocu, Louis van Gaal, Danny Blind, Steve McClaren, Rafa Benitez and Jürgen Klopp. Not bad eh? When Advocaat was coach at PSV, he once put Toivonen on my spot, the #10. I was pissed off then. I still am, hahaha. And I told him last summer at Oranje. But Advocaat followed his truth and was honest and open about it. I can accept that. Mario Been put me on the #10 role, that was special. Everyone in Holland said I didn’t have the vision, I was too individual but he saw it. And he took the risk with me and Leroy. Fred Rutten is like Klopp. The way he organises training sessions, patterns etc. But no one has the passion Klopp has. Wonderful.”

He’s German. Does this mean training really hard?

,,I think of all the players in Oranje, Vincent Janssen and I train the hardest of all. I spoke with Pochettino of Spurs before Liverpool came. It was a really good talk, lovely man.”

The Rotterdam-born midfielder chose Anfield over White Hart Lane in the summer, although strictly speaking there was no choice as Tottenham Hotspur did not meet Newcastle United’s £25m asking price, and has settled seamlessly into a team of increasing substance.

“I had great conversations with Pochettino and Klopp,” says the Dutch international. “But in the meeting with Jürgen we had a laugh and did not speak only about football. He was interested in my personal life and that was good for me. He was not only interested in Wijnaldum the footballer but Wijnaldum the person. When you’re not out on the football field you have to communicate as people and it is good if you know something about how the other person is. It makes things easier. So I didn’t really get an offer from Spurs, but I do speak with Vincent a lot. And he has had barely a day off at Spurs. I don’t think I had one day off from December 21 till end of January. I hardly give interviews, simply coz I don’t have time for it.”

So no comparison with Holland?

“No! In Holland we don’t really train. We simply maintain our condition. I didn’t realise this when I was in Holland. At PSV I sometimes complained but our physical coach Kiesouw said it always: you don’t train hard at all. If you go abroad, you’ll find out what training is.”

Could it be that some players will decide not to want to play for these types of coaches?

“Well, if you don’t want this, you should not want to be top. Then you need to play at a lower level. If you want to reach the ultimate, this is the way.”

Some people say: Liverpool and Tottenham will collapse in March/April. Injuries, fatigue. You guys didn’t start well in 2017 because you’re too tired?

“I don’t agree. I never felt this strong. Sometimes we have to run a kilometer in 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Then directly we need to go and play a match on a small pitch and immediately after that, another kilometer in the same time. And that goes on for the whole session. Trust me, you’re dead after that. But you need to be able to find a way to remain tight in the passing, to play the right ball, to pass with precision. Klopp tells us we can manage to control the last stage of the game.”


Things are looking up for you at Liverpool. How’s the National Team going now?

“I didn’t watch the Euros, I only watched the final. I wanted to spend time with my family and friends instead but, to be honest, I was done with football for a few weeks because everything had gone wrong. Personally it was a great year but when you don’t achieve things with your team, and especially if you get relegated (with Newcastle), it is hard. I was a little bit done with football but Moussa [Sissoko, of France] is a good friend of mine so I thought I should watch him in the final. The Euros was a really big disappointment but relegation with Newcastle was for me even bigger. Before I went to Newcastle I spoke with the manager and the people there and they had big plans to bring good players in and play for titles. I was really disappointed because I wanted to achieve something with Newcastle. Even if it was not a title I wanted to help the club get back to fifth-to-10th place to start with, and maybe get the club back into Europe again. Unfortunately it didn’t go that way. It went totally wrong. That was the biggest disappointment for me last season.”

Wijnaldum talks more Oranje: “I am quite confident we can build our national team up to a good level. We might not longer be the dominant force, or a title candidate, but with players like Robben, Strootman, Van Dijk, Blind and other, I’m sure we can make it hard for any opponent. We just need to have our key players fit. There is so much young talent coming through. And I know what Memphis is capable of. He’ll get back to good form, I’m sure!”

gini messi
Four months into his Liverpool career and Wijnaldum has rediscovered the feeling he had during his final season at PSV Eindhoven when, as captain, he led Phillip Cocu’s team to their first league title since 2008. He will not say whether Liverpool can end a much longer wait for a league title this season. To do so would run contrary to everything Klopp demands of his players, indeed the entire club, in his quest for constant improvement, although the midfielder admits Liverpool have confidence they can win every game at present. “There is no chance of us getting carried away,” he says. “That comes from the manager. Even if we have played a good game he still wants to work on the things that didn’t go so well. Every time you have to give 100%. It’s the same every week and in every training session. Every exercise we do he asks us to do it at 100% and never less.”

Wijnaldum adds: “I feel like I did at PSV. The most important thing is to enjoy football because you don’t know how long your career is going to last, but it is difficult when things don’t go well. It was difficult to enjoy last season. You are losing games, everything is going bad, you don’t play well and in the end you get relegated. That was hard.

“This season I started to enjoy it as soon as I knew Liverpool really wanted to sign me, especially after the meeting with Jürgen. I came away from that with a really great feeling that I could train with a good manager, a really good team and make myself a better player. I’m probably enjoying it now more than I did before because I have seen the other side of football where I was losing a lot of games and got relegated with Newcastle and didn’t go to the Euros. These are better days.

debuut gini oranje

Scoring on his debut, for Oranje
“Every training session we do is to improve you as a player. That’s different to what I’ve experienced before and I’m really happy with it. The manager gives you confidence. He’s not a manager who yells at you or gets angry with you whenever you make a mistake. He will only get mad if you don’t do the things you are good at so, for example, [Sadio] Mané is a good player who can dribble, [Philippe] Coutinho is a good player who can dribble and if they stop doing that there’s a chance he might get mad and upset because you are not using your quality. Against Southampton last week he wanted me to make a run. I did it but it was too late and he said something about it. But sometimes, if I lose the ball easily, I expect him to be angry and he’s not. You can hear his voice easily enough – he’s quite loud. He is really passionate and not only in the game. People might see him during a game and think that’s an act. It’s not an act. He’s like that in training. For me that’s a good thing because it keeps you sharp and, from his side, he is doing everything he can to make the team ready to win games. That’s a good thing.”

The Holland international has a more defensive role at Liverpool than at Newcastle, where he operated out wide or as a No10, but Klopp did not outline a specific role when they met in the summer. “He explained his way of playing and said that I would fit in. From that moment I was very excited,” says Wijnaldum who, for his part, neglected to mention inspiring Newcastle’s 2-0 defeat of Liverpool at St James’ Park in December. “At the time he still had to make me an offer so I thought it is probably best to say nothing about that game, although it was a good one for me.”
Wijnaldum admits that “in different circumstances” he would have “loved to have worked longer” with Benítez. “But I had my plans in my head and we both went our own way. He said he wanted to keep me to get promoted and that the right offer had to be made before I could leave. Once everything was done he said Liverpool was a wonderful club and that he hoped I’d enjoy it here.”

gini psv new look

Big money move to PSV (to aid fledging Feyenoord) and with new look

A more formative influence currently resides across Stanley Park. Erwin Koeman, assistant to his brother, Ronald, at Everton, was the Feyenoord coach who gave Wijnaldum his debut in April 2007; the midfielder became the club’s youngest debutant, in a team featuring Pierre van Hooijdonk and Angelos Charisteas, Greece’s European Championship-winning striker, against a Groningen side featuring one Luis Suárez.

“The game was on the Sunday and he told me on the Wednesday that I would be playing,” he recalls of the elder Koeman. “That was a really special moment. I realised that not every trainer has the balls to let a 16-year-old play in the first team and things were not going so well for the team at that time so they didn’t want to take the risk with young players. I was 16 years and 148 days old. That is why I always respect him as a trainer, because he made a decision that other trainers would have been scared to make. He told me I could tell my grandma, who I was living with at the time, but asked me not to tell anyone in school. I was still at school and he wanted to keep it a secret. You know how it is with reporters. It was very difficult to concentrate on class.”

While Wijnaldum is effusive in his praise of past and present coaches, it is his grandmother Francina to whom he owes the greatest gratitude. As he explains: “I wanted to be a gymnast when I was young, I used to do backflips and all those things in the street and at home, but my grandma said it was dangerous and made me stop. Now my daughter is doing gymnastics and I’m a little bit jealous of her because she is doing all the things I wanted to do when I was young. I had to stop and concentrate on football but I’m happy about that now.”

First senior goal Wijnaldum

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  1. Updates on Tim Krul:

    Horrible mistake by Krul on the last minute of extra time in away game with poor Willem cost AZ two points….Wondering how long Krul will be given a luxury to make mistakes after another….He was very bad with Lion and continues his poor performance in Eredivisie.

  2. Ajax with a very mediocre match versus Vitesse, lacklustre maybe after their match 2 days ago.
    Because of Sinkgravens injury, Riedewald came into CB (and Viergever went to LB), couple shaky plays early but was okay after.
    Klaassen better than his recent usual, scored a good counter attacking goal where he made a good pass in the buildup, also cleared a ball off the line in the second that was a sure goal. His weak penalty attempt deserved to be saved though.
    Thought Veltman was unusually poor with the ball esp in the first half, decent defensively though leaving the match in tackles and recoveries and 2 key plays at the end.
    Nice to see Diks playing, made a really good chance for Vitesse just before Klaassen’s goal and another at the end forcing Onana out to deal with it. Buttner got a few minutes when Vitesse were pushing for the tying goal but couldn’t make much happen.
    Fairly even match edged out by the Klaassen goal.
    1-0 final.

    Feyenoord away to last place ADO
    Vilhena drop to the bench as van Bronkhorst continues to mix it up, starting Toornstra and Kuyt together as 2 AMs, now that Elia and Berghuis are fit and starting. Kongolo also left on the bench for some reason, maybe resting him before the big PSV match next weekend?
    The first half was incredibly void of any chances for either team, but dominated by Feyenoord possession and location wise.. chances seeming to come from the wings, with Feyenoord finally getting shots in, with Elia and Nelom hooking up to make the chance for the El Ahmadi goal. Berghuis and Karsdorp connecting well on the right.
    1-0 win for Feyenoord
    Expected them to create more threats if not for a great save off Schaken by Jones with 10 mins left they may have dropped a couple points, but another important win to keep them on top.

    For Spurs, Janssen was back on the bench as an unused sub, Vorm got a nice 0-3 clean sheet in the cup tie.
    Neither Blind or Fosu-Mensah in the Man Utd team today, lots of key players rested for them.
    They advance which is good, if only for minutes of playing time available..

    Huntelaar was an unused sub for Shalke

    Strootman starts and dominates the midfield with Roma, as usual. Withdrawn up 3-0 with 10 mins to go. Roma concede moments later with a thru ball on ground in the middle :/
    Their 3412 system which he thrives in next to another responsible CM (☝️Wijnaldum?) may suit Oranje well too.

    Memphis started for Lyon, on the back of their big win at AZ two days ago, Dijon give them some trouble falling behind 1-2.. but Memphis assisted the tying goal, and created 7 chances seeing them win 4-2 in the end.
    Good for him, maybe he can build on 2 nice games in a row.

    Bestikas started Babel again, played 90 in their 3-1 win – I noticed had 100% passing accuracy in the final third. Like that.
    Fenerbahce had a goalless draw at home without van Persie and Lens, van der Wiel was back in the lineup for them.
    Maher scored for Osmanlispor in a 1-5 win

  3. maybe over the last couple weekends form (not chemistry necessarilly) these might be nice lineups:

    Karsdorp – de Vrij – Hoedt – Blind
    Wijnaldum – Strootman
    Robben – van Ginkel – Elia

    de Vrij – Hoedt – Blind
    Karsdorp – Wijnaldum – Strootman – Willems
    van Ginkel
    Robben – Dost

    Honourable mentions:
    Ake Fer Propper Klaassen Toornstra Memphis Bergwijn

    .. I don’t usually bother to mess around with lineups so far from any matches but – kinda fun sometimes!

    Seems to me that Danny Blinds biggest need is to find a midfield with good chemistry.. not so sure we have seen our best yet, but.. honestly without a huge world class player coming in after Sneijder van der Vaart it’s not going to be easy.
    I think a 442 with a double 6 combats the 343 craze pretty well and also keeps us strong with a pivot if we need to break through a counter attacking bus, but maybe a wing back style with 3 at the back suits the players we have? Arguable, I like both – but both of those require 2 really strong CMs.
    Really no one performing better than Strootman – Wijnaldum atm for those CM spots.
    But for me, they require some finesse and creativity in front of them and not necessarily lots more hard work, since Sneijder is injured imo van Ginkel is the best choice of other recent food performers: Fer (close for me), Propper, Klaassen, Toornstra
    The rest sort of chose themselves because of injuries, quality or fitness to some other ‘hopefuls’ for me for the next few years:
    Clasie, Bazoer, Hendrix, F de Jong, Vilhena, van de Beek, Ramselaar, Nouri

      1. Huntelaar

        van Ginkel – toornstra

        wijnaldum – Ake-Strootman

        Blind- Hoedt- De vrij-Karsdorp


        Robben standby if needed

        Ake- benefit of doubt

        huntelaar- goals guaranteed with 5 midfielders.

  4. Good form & clean sheets so far at big leagues abroad:

    – PL : Wijnaldum, Van Dijk, de Roon, Indi, Pieter, Aanholt,
    – Italia: Hoedt, de Vrij, Strootman
    – France: El Ghazi, Memphis
    – Germany: Robben, Bruma, Gouweleeuw
    – Potugal: Dost
    – Turkey: Maher, Sneijder, Babel, Lens
    – Russia: Promes

  5. Just watched Ake’s performance for Chelsea in FA match vs Wolve, he played quite solid, i am feeling Conte has truth on our lad, he are trying to step by step involve into Chelsea first squad, very easy to see him on the field by his curl hair, that’s fantastic if he can work with David Luiz as a pair special hair front of Chelsea goalkeeper, very potential, right? 🙂

  6. Vilhena was left out of the team as he’s one yellow away from suspension and Gio didn’t want to risk him for the PSV game.

    Kongolo was not 100% fit and Gio didn’t want to risk him.

    Utrecht fourth, excellent season for them and super goal from Barazite.

  7. Btw Sybe, many thanks for these “live” updates of games and Dutch players etc. That is a very welcome addition to this blog!!!

    As for Barazite, it seems Ten Hag does rotate him. He’s not playing everything. Probably tactical.

    Barazite is a bit old fashioned. Beautiful on the ball, but slack without the ball. He’s an artist, should have been born 30 years earlier 😉

  8. The AD sports paper today:

    Davy Klaassen is ready for a big step. Klaassen always said he’d move away from Ajax when he’s ready. And he certainly is. Again the best man for Ajax last weekend, could even afford to miss a penalty. But, will he be the next Sneijder? Good enough for the European top? Or is he the next Siem de Jong? Good for the Eredivisie not good enough for the big leagues.

    Statistics buro Opta analysed the game of Klaassen and determined clubs like Liverpool, Paris St Germain, Leverkusen or Napoli would be perfect. Clubs that play the high pressure game.

    Ronald de Boer: “Being able to push at the right time, find the right moment for the run, that is Klaassen top quality, along with his mentality. His goal vs Vitesse last Sunday was an example: running 50 meters to come into the box at the exact right moment and on the right place.”

    De Boer: “He needs to be super critical. He’s not a player who can excel just on his own skills. He’s not a specialist, but an allrounder. He’s no Messi, Robben or Di Maria. Like Jari Litmanen, he needs a team around him that will do the work and will be able to use Klaassen. Litmanen was world class at Ajax, but it didn’t work so well elsewhere. In Italy, Bergkamp was the sole striker, that didn’t work. At Arsenal he was superb, but with another striker alongside him.”

    1. klassen will most likely end up as Seim Dejong or Luuk dejong(Both i rate as intelligent players lacks the typical quality of forwards)…
      Real or Barca wont sign klassen,italian clubs are not suited for him..
      Klassen needs a team who can help him and understand his play…I think ajax,psv and feynoord are the best clubs for him..May be arsenal i dont know…
      He lacks the physicality of Gini wijnaldum and kuyt to suceed in PL..we know that he is not Roben…I see very litte hope for him out side dutch world..

    2. That article seems accurate to me. I’d add that I think the Spring qualifiers will be very important in how he progresses. During the games, he always seems to have one or two first rate opportunities to score, but he doesn’t convert, and we’re left with the cursing in the immediate aftermath of the miss, and the longer term, “if Klaassen had only put that away” regret. He’s at the stage where he has to start putting those goals away—I think even one could do it because confidence is such a big thing with goal scorers, and he could make a big breakthrough at the international level—but if he doesn’t, well, this is a performance business, especially at the NT level…

      But I’ll go on record as saying I am optimistic.

      Let me also add, that even if he never excels at the NT level, it doesn’t mean that he is “garbage” player, or whatever other like terms people want to use. He’s had an very good career so far. It is no disgrace not to be a difference maker at the NT level. I’m hoping he becomes one.

      1. And just to clarify, the player I’m referring to is Klaassen. (I realized that when I said the article seems accurate, it could be read to refer to Jan’s main feature on Wijnaldum.)

    1. Yea should be some interesting matchups all over the park!


      Karsdorp-Berghuis v Willems-Bergwijn

      Kongolo-Elia v Arias-Ramselaar

  9. Wasn’t able to watch any matches today, but here is some news…

    In Amsterdam, Viergever’s goal was enough to see Ajax advance 1-0, in their home match to Legia Warsaw after drawing 0-0 away.
    Looks as though they again dominated possession but in the end the shots on target were only 5-3 in their favour..

    Strootman was rested and left out of Roma’s lineup at home to Villarreal as they were up by 4 away goals. They lost 0-1 but advance on agg.

    Babel started again for Bestikas at home to H Be’er Sheva, and up 3-1 on agg.. looking at the game file, the only thing notable for him is that he played 90 mins and led the match in take-ons.

    Maher and Osmanlispor lose at home 0-3 to Olympiakos, getting eliminated by the same score after drawing away.

    1. Also some games just kicking off:

      AZ is in Lyon to try to claw back some pride from their 1-4 home loss, Vlaar also makes his return.

      For Spurs, Janssen and Vorm have both started on the bench.

        1. Oooof
          AZ lose away to Lyon 7-1, eliminated by 11-2 over both legs.

          For Spurs, Kane scored and own goal and Alli got a red card in their 2-2 home draw which sees them eliminated by Gent today.
          Janssen came on in the 89th minute.. and by then they needed 2 goals!
          Unbelievable to me that Janssen basically gets no chances over the course of this tie..

          1. Pochettino is Arjentinian…He is cared about victory,he is not LVG…So why expect any favor from him..Janssen needs to play regular to find his form and he can redeem it.Which is not given by pochettino..IMO Janssen must join a dutch coach or coaches who like ‘Dutch football..

          2. I dont want any favors or expect any favors, and I am sure Janssen does not either.
            I like things to be difficult, it can give growth and show character.

            as you said, he needs to play to find his form.
            Plus, now a little less easy now to get more minutes with just the FA cup and the EPL left..

            His last good chunk of time was 45 minutes versus Wycombe in the FA cup, giving a huge spark and inspiring a come from behind victory with an assist and another goal (pen) – since then he has just 15 minutes in 4 substitute appearances in their last 6 matches. but, Pochettino prefers Sissoko and Son as subs, even though since that Wycombe match they have only 1 assist between them. This is why I cant believe he hasnt got more chances recently..

            But I do like his coaching style but for me he relies to heavily on Kane and Alli, and has failed to get much form going for anyone but them, besides Eriksen who is up and down. Their defense is the reason they sit with the other big english clubs.

  10. 7:1….I do not remember AZ losing that much in Europe! Looks like it is a new Dutch record. Biggest defeat ever for a Dutch club in Europe. Congratulations, AZ and van Den Brom. Great achievement! It looked like entire team was paralized….

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