“Goodbyes would not be tough if the time you had together was not worth it. It’s very emotional for me because I lose a friend,” Jurgen Klopp pays tribute to Georginio Wijnaldum who confirms he will leave Liverpool as a free agent this summer.
Jurgen Klopp paid an emotional tribute to Georginio Wijnaldum after he captained Liverpool to Champions League qualification on what will be his final appearance for the club.
Wijnaldum’s 2016 transfer from Newcastle has become a hallmark of Klopp’s tenure at Anfield, with the Netherlands international forming the foundation for Liverpool’s emergence as European and Premier League champions.
The 30-year-old is out on contract at the end of June and, with no agreement reached over a new deal, his time at Anfield looks to be up. Klopp admitted it would be tough to see the midfielder go.
“Where can I start?” Klopp said after Liverpool secured a third-place finish and Champions League football with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on the final day of the Premier League season.
“I met this wonderful player for the first time in my living room, in the first moment it clicked with us, he was a very friendly, very smart, very open person.
“It’s very emotional for me because I lose a friend, that is how it is, but it’s normal for these kind of things to happen. I am really sure that he will find a great place. Each club that is interested in him should call me and ask about him, then you will definitely take him because I couldn’t be more positive about what he did here.
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“Not only was he always available, 90 per cent of the time he played really, really well. People might not know exactly what I mean by good because sometimes it is not spectacular, but from a young kid who was an offensive 10, a winger at Newcastle and then came here and became such a controlling midfielder is a massive step, and you can only do that when you understand the game really in the right way.
“He scored incredible goals, Barcelona, Cardiff, Middlesbrough, so many top, top class performances. And now, it looks like the time is over.
“Everything will be fine, nobody can take away our memories from us, we will share them together. I told him that after the game, he sees it the same way. Goodbyes would not be tough if the time you had together was not worth it. It’s really tough because we had a great time together.”
An emotional Wijnaldum was given a guard of honour and a big presentation and told Sky Sports after the final whistle that he will be looking to move on as a free agent in the summer but has vowed to publicly explain his decision.
“I’m fighting against my tears right now,” he told Sky Sports after Liverpool’s win over Crystal Palace. “I’ve said that the people in Liverpool and the club, my team-mates, have shown me love during the five years, and I will miss them.
“I hoped to play many more years for the club but unfortunately things went different, I think everyone knows in football that anything can happen but the situation right now is that on July 1st I’m not a Liverpool player anymore.
“As it looks right now this is my last game but what I just said is that in football anything can happen.
“We will see what I will do in the next couple of weeks, I will rest a little bit and then go to the national team and then I have to look when is time to do my story about how everything went, because I think the fans deserve to know the story behind it, and then we will see from there.”
A double from Sadio Mane saw Liverpool end the season with a 10-game unbeaten run and secured Champions League football after lifting the Reds above Chelsea into third place in the Premier League.
Klopp’s side were seven points adrift of the top four prior to their run starting but 26 points from a possible 30 have ensured they will play in Europe’s elite club competition again.
Klopp: Top four was absolutely out of reach, impossible
Klopp admits finishing third in the Premier League was “barely possible” a month ago, adding: “It’s big, come on. If someone would have told me a few weeks ago we would finish third… it was absolutely out of reach, impossible.
“The good thing about this year is that we didn’t feel too good very often because many things around us happened. Injuries were a subject that followed us through the whole year, that was hard to take.
“But from nowhere to the Champions League in five weeks, that’s a massive achievement, I couldn’t be happier.”
Klopp is relishing guiding Liverpool back into the Champions League, a competition he won back in 2019.
“A race and a third position, who cares? It’s great, absolutely great,” he continued. “We had to fight through this season and in the harder moments you can learn the most and show the most and we really stuck together all the time.
“There were no arguments, we just knew some things were tough and we needed to improve. Football is a game based on confidence; we didn’t have many opportunities to gain confidence as we were constantly sorting problems.
“But it is so nice to see that we could use the final weeks to give this season a proper turnaround. I am happy for the Champions League that they don’t have to play without us, it is great we are in it, I cannot wait for that.
“It is an outstanding achievement from the boys. Man City rightly won the league, great season, congratulations to them, but just because we couldn’t be champions didn’t mean we couldn’t have any targets. The target was to seal international football, it’s the Champions League and that’s really good.”