Liverpool star Georginio Wijnaldum says he was “done with football” in the summer until he met Jurgen Klopp and signed for the German.
After a disastrous failure to reach Euro 2016 with Holland and relegation with Newcastle the Holland midfielder was at a low ebb.
In fact after scoring on June 1 to give Holland a 2-1 win over Poland he did not watch another competitive match until 10 July – the final of Euro 2016, in which his close pal Moussa Sissoko featured.
“I was done with football for a few weeks,” he told The Guardian. “These are better days.”
The 26-year-old’s first involvement back in football, albeit only a 39-day absence, did not do much to raise spirits as Sissoko’s France side were beaten 1-0 on home soil.
Enter Klopp though, who took Wijnaldum under his wing and lured him to Anfield, despite firm interest from Tottenham.
“I had great conversations with [Mauricio] Pochettino and Klopp,” said Wijnaldum. “But in the meeting with Jurgen we had a laugh and did not speak only about football. He was interested in my personal life and that was good for me.
“He was not only interested in Wijnaldum the footballer but Wijnaldum the person. When you’re not out on the football field you have to communicate as people and it is good if you know something about how the other person is. It makes things easier.”
Wijnaldum’s debut season in English football was anything but simple when, despite scoring 11 Premier League goals.
“It was a really difficult time. The first thing was that it was hard to accept we didn’t qualify for the Euros. When you finish third at a World Cup you have confidence you might be able to win the Euros and we didn’t go.
“I didn’t watch the Euros, I only watched the final. I wanted to spend time with my family and friends instead but, to be honest, I was done with football for a few weeks because everything had gone wrong. Personally it was a great year but when you don’t achieve things with your team, and especially if you get relegated, it is hard. I was a little bit done with football but Moussa is a good friend of mine so I thought I should watch him in the final.
“The Euros was a really big disappointment but relegation with Newcastle was for me even bigger. Before I went to Newcastle I spoke with the manager and the people there and they had big plans to bring good players in and play for titles. I was really disappointed because I wanted to achieve something with Newcastle.
“Even if it was not a title I wanted to help the club get back to fifth-to-10th place to start with, and maybe get the club back into Europe again. Unfortunately it didn’t go that way. It went totally wrong. That was the biggest disappointment for me last season,” he added.