Gini Wijnaldum has opened up on his ‘love-hate’ relationship with Jurgen Klopp and the significance of Liverpool releasing the pressure valve with their Champions League success.
Wijnaldum has been a consistent figure in Liverpool’s midfield contingent since arriving on Merseyside in the summer of 2016, but a starting berth has never been a certainty.
The Dutchman regularly competes for a spot in the side alongside the likes of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
And with Klopp often rotating personnel in the middle of the park each player will at times be left disappointed with his selection should they miss out.
Although Wijnaldum has made 63 Premier League starts since the beginning of the 2017/18 season as well as 20 in the previous 26 Champions League games, including both European Cup finals, any absence from the starting XI does not sit well with him.
And the game against Barcelona in the second leg of the Reds’ semi-final tie in the Champions League was the peak of his disappointment having been overlooked for a starting spot when Liverpool needed to overturn a 3-0 deficit.
In the end, Liverpool’s No.5 would prove to be the catalyst for the historic comeback after finding the net twice in quick succession after coming off the bench at half-time, and while he knows Klopp has the players’ best interests at heart it still remains hard to accept being overlooked.
“With the manager, it is more or less hate and love. I am sure he has the best -interests at heart with every player in the squad. But sometimes you are so involved in a match and the manager is still chasing you,” Wijnaldum said.
“Then you just boil over sometimes and, in my case, I do get angry with him. I still don’t know if what happened against Barcelona was his real plan.
“But that night I was so angry and so disappointed that he did not start me.
“Looking back, we can say things worked out all right. We will never know how it might have gone if the manager had started me.”
Whether it was fate or not, Liverpool would end up securing their place in the showpiece final and securing their sixth European Cup and the first piece of silverware under Klopp’s tutelage.
Breaking the duck with the most lucrative prize in club football unshackled Liverpool from the burden which came with seven years without a trophy and with the Super Cup already in the bag this season, the Reds’ sights remain on adding “even more titles.”
The Premier League is high on the agenda after 30-years without the top-flight crown, but while the Champions League success has provided a major boost in confidence in breaking the drought for Wijnaldum and Co. the task remains simple: focus on one session and game at a time.
“Winning the Champions League has given us all peace of mind. Now we know what it’s like to win the biggest trophy of them all – and we just want to keep going from here and add even more titles,” Wijnaldum added.
“But Jurgen Klopp is not putting extreme pressure on us to win the Premier League. He does not tell us, ‘Now you must win this or that trophy’. He is very relaxed.
“He did not do that during the past season, either. His idea is that we get the maximum out of every individual every single day that we are together. And then we will see where that brings us at the end of the season.”