The Reds midfielder says his side’s triumph in Madrid has been life-changing but wants the ‘drug’ of more success at Anfield
For Gini Wijnaldum, there has been no escape.
The Liverpool midfielder has been all over the world this summer. Dubai, Miami, Los Angeles, Rotterdam, Merseyside.
“Yeah, I like to fly a lot,” he smiles. “That’s my life.”
That life has changed now, whether he likes it or not. Wherever Wijnaldum goes, people want to talk. Not about the Reds’ Premier League misfortune, not about the Netherlands’ footballing renaissance or his holidays or his family.
About Madrid. About THAT night. About six times.
“It’s been a big difference to previous summers,” the Dutch midfielder grins. “I’ve had a few more people congratulating me and wanting to talk.
“Everywhere you go, every day, everyone reminds you, everyone wants to speak about it. They all want to talk about how we won it six times, and how they felt. You can’t avoid that.”
Even if he wanted to, it would have been difficult to avoid reminders of Liverpool’s Champions League success.
Jurgen Klopp has spoken of the need to move on from Madrid, to stay “greedy”, hungry for more success. “There’s a season ahead of us now, and that has to be our only focus,” the Reds boss said last week.
Still, Klopp has been not averse to a little look back himself, as Wijnaldum reveals.
“He sent me a video over the summer!” the midfielder laughs. “It was one which starts where we lost the final in Kiev, and it shows our progress from there.
“It was good to watch and remember all those moments and those games.”
Wijnaldum admits that feeling, beating Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano and then celebrating in front of 500,000 fans in Liverpool the following day, was “like a drug”, one which has left the 28-year-old craving more success, more silverware, more of those never-to-be-forgotten moments and memories.
“Now we know what it’s like to win something,” he says. “And not only that, to celebrate with the city as well. It’s not just the team and the people who work here, it’s the supporters, the city. It felt like the whole world was happy when we won it!
“You get a feeling that you are not only doing it for yourself, you’re making so many people happy and that’s probably the biggest drug for a soccer professional.”
He adds: “It changes your life, because you’ll always be a Champions League winner. There are a lot of great players who didn’t win that trophy, so it’s special. It’s the biggest one you can win as a club, because you are competing with the biggest clubs. All around the world, everyone has been watching the Champions League.
“When I speak to people, they don’t tell me how disappointed they were not to win the Premier League, they want to talk about the Champions League. But we wanted to win both! That’s how we look at it. But winning the Champions League, yeah, you will always be remembered as legends.”
In terms of the Premier League, Liverpool’s focus remains sharp. Manchester City, champions in each of the last two seasons, will start the new campaign as favourites once more. The Reds’ task has been a huge one.
“I think it’s about consistency,” says Wijnakdum. “In the Premier League, it has been so difficult to collect the amount of points we did last season. And City did it twice!
“So that’s the challenge we have. But we have a team that can do it, and we want to try and do better than last year. Hopefully we can bring more titles to Liverpool.”
If they are to do that, then they will need the heroes of last season to step up once more.
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Liverpool already house the PFA Player of the Year in Virgil van Dijk, and have three big contenders for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award too. Van Dijk, at present, has been the favourite, ahead of Lionel Messi.
“He deserves to be in the running,” says Wijnaldum. “But I also think [Sadio] Mane and Alisson do too! I don’t know how many Golden Gloves Alisson has, but it’s a lot!
“It’s difficult to say. I don’t know what they are looking for, it’s an award for the best soccer professional, but a lot of the time the best soccer professional has been the one who won the most, so we will see. But any of those three would deserve it.”