He started as an inconspicuous full-back and is now one of the best players in the world in the service of Liverpool FC and is allegedly even a topic at Bayern. The rise of Georginio Wijnaldum was anything but foreseeable. Two companions remember a very special player. On and next to the square.
So now also FC Bayern. Allegedly. Georginio Gregion Emile Wijnaldum, whom everyone calls Gini, is a so-called transfer target. An interesting player who in a few weeks’ time will almost certainly be leaving his current employer for a free transfer and joining another club. The Bavarians are said to have been offered Wijnaldum, however one has to imagine such an offer. This has already been reported by various media, his advisor signaled at Sport1 finally also potential interest of his client.
But it can also be heard that the leagues in England and Spain are his preferred working environment. So it’s a good thing that FC Barcelona would love to sign the player soon. The relationship between Barca and Dutch employees is a long track record, ranging from Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens to Ronald Koeman and Frenkie de Jong.
These two should be a weighty pound in courting one of the best midfielders in the world – who as such always seems a little undervalued. Even at his current club, the big stories revolve around Thiago, Jordan Henderson or James Milner.
Wijnaldum “always the last one on the training ground”
Gini Wijnaldum grew up in Rotterdam-Schiemond, right by the harbor. A working-class district that emerged from the ground after the war, which over the decades has developed into a so-called problem district. Simple people live here, most of them want to get out of Schiemond at some point. It should have been the same with Georginio, says Marcel Meeuwis in an interview with DAZN . The now 40-year-old was once a professional at Borussia Mönchengladbach and played with Wijnaldum at Feyenoord.
“Gini always knew exactly what he wanted. He already had his way clearly in mind as a teenager, wanted to get out into the big wide world. And for that he plowed like no one else”, Meeuwis remembers exactly the boy who was still quite shy and reserved at the time, but was already very clear in his thinking. Wijnaldum learned the basics at the smaller Rotterdam club Sparta, then went to the big Feyenoord. Wijnaldum was trained by famous coaches, learned from Ruud Gullit and Leo Beenhakker, among others, then Bert van Marwijk and Gertjan Verbeek became his first professional coaches. Phillip Cocu and Dick Advocaat joined PSV Eindhoven later. There are arguably worse conditions in which to prepare for a great career as a player.
But the external circumstances were one thing, the intrinsic motivation of Wijnaldum the much more important part of his rapid development. “He was actually always the last to leave the training ground. While others were sitting in the dressing room for a long time, Gini did a few extra shifts. He let crosses and headed on goal for 15 minutes non-stop. Or practiced free kicks. That was quite a bit unusual. Not because he did more than others – but because he practiced game situations that usually hardly arose for him as a player, “says Meeuwis.
Wijnaldum started at Feyenoord as a right full-back, and in his early years as a professional no one thought of a transfer to midfield. Except for Wijnaldum himself. “I think he was smart enough to see the potential that lay dormant in him. And he was smart enough not to move around the houses with the other players after training or after a game. Back then it was completely normal: we went out a lot, had fun, a beer here, a few whiskey-colas there. But Gini was almost never there. He preferred to go home to his family. “
Kevin Hofland also speaks in a similar way DAZN about his former teammate. Hofland and Wijnaldum played together at Feyenoord for three years. Hofland was already a seasoned professional and national player back then and therefore automatically a person of respect for Wijnaldum. “I would describe that as one of his greatest strengths: He wasn’t a typical yes-man, but he took advice from older players very early on. Gini always had a few problems dealing with disappointments at the beginning. But he accepted help and not himself Closed. Reflection and the will to get out of your comfort zone are very important qualities in young players. “
He put an end to the hopes for the title of his future colleagues with a double pack, and his cheers after the first goal, as he stood in front of Feyenoord’s fans, as if to say: This is still for you! “An incredible moment, an incredible game,” recalls Meeuwis. Incidentally, Wijnaldum scored 16 goals this season, having long since moved from right wing to attacking midfield. He scored the two goals against Feyenoord with a head, the additional training turned out to be very helpful. And Eindhoven missed the championship two weeks later.
After all, he was not only able to help PSV win the title in the years that followed. But also bring your game to a new level. In Eindhoven Wijnaldum learned what it is like to always be the favorite and to use different stylistic devices against smaller opponents than before at Feyenoord, which at the time played at best a mediocre role in Dutch football.
Wijnaldum show in De Kuip
These playing skills paired with his enormous physical robustness made him an almost perfect player for the Premier League. Wijnaldum pushed his career off the drawing board and dared to take the next step after four years in Eindhoven. At the age of 24 he landed in the Premier League. The rest is history: Wijnaldum played a strong season for Newcastle United, but the Magpies were relegated. Several clubs from England were interested, but Liverpool FC won the bid.
From the first second he fell for Jürgen Klopp and his idea of the new Liverpool FC, Wijnaldum once said. “We only had one conversation; the contract was signed three days later.” At that time, a jerky start was also priced in, it was clear that Liverpool could not suddenly be successful again overnight. The prospect of a place at one of the largest clubs in the world and being able to play and learn under one of the most dazzling coaches was the decisive factor at the time.
And as is often the case with Klopp teams, it actually took a few years for the pieces of the puzzle to come together to form a whole. Wijnaldum himself moved back from ten. The post in the half-space of Klopps 4-3-3 became his ideal position, here he developed into a figure eight of world format. And one of those unsung heroes that every team needs if they want to achieve great things.