EPL midfielder Gini Wijnaldum is one of the most important members of a star-studded Liverpool squad. The 29-year-old has been plying his trade in the EPL since 2015 and in that period, become one of the most reliable performers in the English top-flight.
"I loved gymnastics, my grandma said it was too dangerous. I didn't like football as much as a young boy. I stayed with my grandma from 5 years till 19 and I'm so lucky to have her."
"My youth was good despite my parents being separated, but I did face a lot of challenges."
Having previously represented the likes of Sparta Rotterdam, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, Wijnaldum secured a switch to the EPL in 2015. Several clubs made offers for the Dutchman at the time, but he chose to move to EPL side Newcastle United to continue his development.
However, it wasn't all plain sailing for the Dutchman in the EPL. In the 2015-16 season, the Magpies suffered relegation from the EPL despite Wijnaldum's stellar performances, as they dropped down to the Championship.
In the summer of 2016, Wijnaldum was a wanted man as several EPL sides joined the race to sign him. While it initially looked like Tottenham Hotspur would get their man, a crucial intervention by Jurgen Klopp meant the Dutchman signed for fellow EPL club Liverpool instead.
"I had more options, but I chose Liverpool because Jurgen Klopp just stepped in. I had a conversation with Mauricio Pochettino and wanted to sign for Tottenham at the time."
"When I spoke to Klopp, I was praying to become a Liverpool player. When I think back upon this now, it still makes me very happy."
The combative midfielder has missed just 11 out of 143 EPL games since joining Liverpool and has reinvented himself in a deeper midfield role.
EPL star opens up on historic Barcelona brace
Wijnaldum also developed a knack of scoring important goals for the EPL outfit, as was the case with his stunning brace against Barcelona last year.
"This [Barcelona game] was the most critical moment, I think the rest of the players will agree. Winning trophies is one thing, but the way we did it was unbelievable."
"We played really well away from home but we lost 3-0. We had the confidence to play Champions League games at home, because we knew Anfield will give us the confidence."
When quizzed about the historic game, the EPL midfielder shed light on what they felt like after the 3-0 defeat at the Camp Nou.
Wijnaldum also added that he believed Liverpool could turn the tie around at Anfield.
"Sadio asked me after the first leg if we could change the game. I said 'yes, I have a good feeling.'"
"Everyone knows how difficult it is to play against Barcelona, but our defending was unbelievable. Lot of people thought it was over. If Barca scored one, we needed five."
Finally, Wijnaldum also weighed in on the age-old debate as to who the better player is between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The Dutchman was as diplomatic as ever with his answer, as he claimed that it is unfair to pick between the two.
"Sometimes I say Lionel Messi, sometimes I say Cristiano Ronaldo. It is not fair to pick between the two, because what one player has, the other player doesn't. They are both the players in the world, for me."
The midfielder has been in stunning form for Liverpool this season and looks set to lift the EPL title with the Merseyside club once the season resumes.
Jurgen Klopp's side are just two wins away from mathematically sealing the EPL title and could wrap it up as early as this month if they carry on from where they left off.Published 08 Jun 2020, 22:42 IST