‘I’ve heard people say that the phrase “unsung hero” about my role and maybe that’s true, but that’s not a problem for me. I know how my team-mates think about me and I know how the manager thinks about me and they really appreciate me.
They don’t see me how people outside the club see me. So that was not a big deal for me. I feel I’m loved by the other players and the manager so that’s more important.”- Wijnaldum.
Wijnaldum was raised by his grandmother after his mother moved to Amsterdam following a divorce when he was just five. Initially he had no interest in football, His ambition was to become a gymnast or acrobat but that changed after he encountered football at an academy; ‘When I was young, I used to go to training so early in the morning that the trams in Rotterdam weren’t running yet so my grandma would walk there with me even though it took 45 minutes.’
His grandma dedicated her time so he could play football as a means to keep him off the street not necessarily to pursue professional football. Little did she know that her grandson will make his mark.
Wijnaldum became the youngest player ever to represent Feyenoord when he made his debut in 2007, Following his departure from Feyenoord, Wijnaldum spent four seasons at PSV where he won the KNVB Cup in the first season and the Eredivisie in his last. In 2015, Wijnaldum joined Premier League side Newcastle United for £14.5 million, before departing following the club’s relegation a year later to join Liverpool in a £23 million deal.
Able to play as a No 8 or as a holding midfielder, Wijnaldum, 28, has become Jurgen Klopp’s most trusted player at Liverpool.
When Klopp bought Naby Keita and Fabinho to the club in the summer, some thought Wijnaldum would lose his place.
‘I didn’t worry when the club signed Keita and Fabinho,’ says Wijnaldum. ‘A lot of players think: “OK, they signed him so I’m not needed anymore”, but as a player, you have to show the manager and force him to put you in the team. Show your quality with the way you train and the way you play.
Wijnaldum was unhappy about the rumour that he wanted to leave Liverpool ‘I spoke with the manager about it, The manager said “you’re not leaving” and I told him I didn’t want to leave. I like Liverpool. I like the club and I like the fans. People appreciate me. That’s the most important thing.
In the midst of competition, Wijnaldum has played more games for Liverpool this season than any other midfielder. ‘I really love football and I love to win but a lot of times the result doesn’t give you the joy you want. I don’t play football only to win. I play football to get better and show how good I am.