Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum tells ESPN how winning the Champions League would not make up for Holland not being at the World Cup.
Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum insists Mo Salah must replicate his form for many years to be mentioned with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
As Liverpool head to Kiev, a look behind the scenes at Anfield as Salah meets Lampard, van Djik nutmegs Lovren and ESPN meets Wijnaldum.
ESPN FC’s Dan Thomas and Mark Ogden build up to the UCL final and discuss the latest issues plaguing Liverpool supporters in Kiev.
ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti and Stewart Robson discuss this weekend’s Champions League final, specifically what Real Madrid must do to stop Mohamed Salah.
Georginio Wijnaldum has told ESPN FC that winning the Champions League final with Liverpool will not be enough to make up for missing out on the World Cup this summer.
The Netherlands midfielder is expected to retain his place in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI for Saturday’s clash with Real Madrid in Kiev after stepping in for the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in recent weeks.
But while the majority of his Liverpool teammates will begin preparations for Russia 2018 following the Champions League final, Wijnaldum is faced with two international friendlies with the Dutch before an extended summer break in the wake of his country’s failure to make it to the finals.
And after helping Louis van Gaal’s team come within a penalty shootout of reaching the final at Brazil 2014, Wijnaldum admits that even the joy of claiming a Champions League winners’ medal will not ease the pain of missing the World Cup.
“Oh no, I don’t think it will make up for that,” Wijnaldum said. “Of course you will be happy if we win, but it will not change the feeling when the World Cup starts.
“The Champions League is the biggest trophy you can win with a club, but the World Cup is the biggest tournament you can play as a country, so it will not take the feeling away.
“But of course, I will be really happy to win the Champions League.”
Wijnaldum’s international teammate Virgil van Dijk will also be sat at home this summer while the World Cup takes place.
The £75 million defender — elevated to the captaincy by new Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman — has made a huge impact at Anfield since arriving from Southampton in January and Wijnaldum points to Van Dijk’s leadership qualities as being crucial.
“He is quality, but as a person he has the ability to be a leader,” Wijnaldum said. “He speaks a lot, tries to help people and it makes it easier for a team.
“That is also something we needed, a player who would take the leader role in the back line, and I think he has done that.
“But has a lot of qualities and we have shown since he came that we have conceded fewer goals than before. Since he came, we improved a lot.”
Liverpool go into Saturday’s game as underdogs against a Real team aiming to win a third successive Champions League final.
Wijnaldum admits that Klopp’s men must play a perfect match, but also use their first-half display against Manchester City in the quarterfinal second-leg as an example of how not to play the game.
“The game away at Manchester City, the first-half, the mindset was wrong because we didn’t do the things that we are good at,” he said. “Maybe we were too nervous, maybe scared to concede goals, and we didn’t do the things we are good at, so that is another example of how we shouldn’t play.
“We just have to try everything we can do and play our own game because that will give us a good chance.
“We have to play the perfect match to win the game and if the midfield is good, it gives more stability to the team, which is why, if we do our job properly, it will make it easier for our defence and the attackers to do their job.”
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_