‘Better feeling with Koeman than with Van Gaal’

‘Better feeling with Koeman than with Van Gaal’

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Georginio Wijnaldum fell out of favour with Oranje under Louis van Gaal, was badly injured at AS Roma and missed the World Cup in Qatar. A year after his last international, he is back with the Dutch team. Under the wings of Ronald Koeman, the birthday national coach, with whom he has a close relationship.

For Wijnaldum was secretly hoping that Koeman, who turned 60 today, would soon return to the Dutch national team, after he traded the national team coaching job for his dream job as FC Barcelona coach shortly before the 2021 European Championship.

After that European Championship, Koeman pulled out all the stops to get Wijnaldum from Liverpool to Barça. The 32-year-old midfielder has not forgotten that. “I hoped to work with him back then. It just didn’t work out then, unfortunately. Our bond goes back to our time at Feyenoord. It’s in the feeling we have with each other.”

All players fit at training

Wijnaldum faced the press on Tuesday morning before starting training with Orange. All 25 players participated. Joey Veerman has now joined as well. The PSV midfielder was called up yesterday for the European Championship qualifiers with France and Gibraltar as a replacement for the injured Frenkie de Jong.

Wijnaldum back with Oranje and with Koeman: ‘Very good feeling together’

The bond with Van Gaal was more complex. On the one hand there are the beautiful memories of the 2014 World Cup, on the other the balking at last year’s decision to pass him.

No hard feelings toward Van Gaal

But he certainly does not harbor resentment toward Van Gaal, Wijnaldum stressed. “I accepted it at the time and we had a conversation. But it’s not really pronounced. I am also grateful to Van Gaal for what he has meant in my career. It’s not as if I don’t find him a nice man now, or not a good trainer. But with Koeman I do have a better feeling than with Van Gaal.”

Wijnaldum and Van Gaal in 2021, during an Orange match against Montenegro

With Koeman’s return, Wijnaldum hopes he can recapture his important role at Oranje from before. The fact that he is now playing regularly again at AS Roma after his long injury helps with that.

On Feb. 11, Wijnaldum made his comeback. In the month and a half that followed, he played seven games. In the last four games, coach José Mourinho already put him back in the starting lineup. Against Salernitana, he scored his first goal for Roma.

Hunger enough

It seems to be the beginning of a new period in his career, which took a hit with a lousy time at France’s Paris Saint-Germain. “Actually, I was already in a different phase when I went to Roma. I felt that they really wanted me and that Mourinho wanted me to play a lot. And also in the group they were happy with me. I also felt that when I came back from my injury.”

Because of Frenkie de Jong’s injury, Wijnaldum is quite likely to get playing minutes in the European Championship qualifiers against France and Gibraltar. In any case, he sees plenty of perspective. The “hunger” is still there. “Certainly, because we can still make steps with this team. And there is enough potential, also with the new guys who have joined.

Kayleigh Williams