Louis Vuitton // Burberry // Prada
SWM flew to Dubai to conduct an original photoshoot and lifestyle video with Dutch international Georginio Wijnaldum. After a day on the yacht with this Autumn’s cover star, we headed back to his villa and into the night, cruising through downtown Dubai in a blacked-out Mercedes G wagon.
One day in Dubai, with Gini Wijnaldum
In a world-exclusive interview, Gini gives us an insight into his lifestyle, childhood and winning the Champions League.
Firstly, can you tell us about your childhood and what it was like growing up in Rotterdam?
I had a great youth, I lived with my mother from the moment I was born until the age of five, and then my mother decided to move to Amsterdam, but I didn’t want to go. When I was growing up, me and my cousins would always go to my grandmother’s after school because my mum and aunties were working, so when my mother wanted to move, I asked to stay with my grandmother because this was normal for me. It took a lot of persuading as she didn’t like it but agreed to let me stay.
When you were young, how did you get into playing football and get selected for an academy?
To be fair, I was more into gymnastics before football. I was the only one out of my friends who liked gymnastics; they all loved football. But you know, if you want to play together you have to play football. I liked it, but it wasn’t my first sport.
Tell us about your experience in youth football and the system in Holland.
I was asked to attend a talent day when I was six years old, a lot of people were asked to go, and they picked the best ones. At that moment I don’t think I was even the best player; I was lucky they chose me. I played at the academy until thirteen before I moved to Feyenoord, where I played until I was 20.
“At that moment I don’t think I was even the best player; I was lucky they chose me.”
You were the youngest ever player to make your professional debut for Feyenoord?
[Gini laughs] Yes, true, true.
Why is it important for professional footballers to have good people around them to help them with life off the field?
Everybody is different, some people don’t need other people, and they do things by themselves. However, a lot of people do because, as a player, you have to work so hard and give all your attention to football, so sometimes it’s hard off the pitch.
You need honest people around you who will tell you the truth and give you their honest opinion; it helps keep both feet on the ground. There are people who just try to enjoy the moment and lifestyle, and they don’t help you go forward; this is not good for a player, so you need honest friends.
It is obvious that Jürgen Klopp has had a massive impact on your career. What kind of person is he, and how has he changed you as a person both on and off the pitch?
Jürgen is a really good man. He always tries to help his players and puts more than 100% effort into improving the players and the team. He is really good to work with because he is an honest person. He is more than just a manager, he is a friend when you need him and a mental coach. He helps you become aware of things and helps you with situations. He has really good qualities.
“He helps you become aware of things and helps you with situations.”
Who are your best friends in football?
I have really good relationships with my old teammates and consider them as best friends. We always keep in contact by speaking on the phone and discussing life. Now that I am at Liverpool, I play with Virgil; we get along quite well. It’s easy for us because he speaks Dutch, so we try to help each other out. We’re at the same club, so we get along more than players at other clubs; everyone plays at a high level in other countries and deals with their own things, so it’s not possible to speak and see them as much, but it’s always good fun when we do.
Who was your idol growing up?
When I was growing up, my idol was Clarence Seedorf because, you know, we have the same nationality and also, especially because he comes from the country where my parents are from. In our country he is a big personality, he was a really good football player and a good person.
Who would you say is the best player you have played with and against?
This is always a tough question. I played with so many good players during my career who all have different qualities. It is difficult to answer who is the best because you have really good defenders like Virgil, but then attackers and midfielders like Arjen Robben and Sneijder were amazing. The front three at Liverpool are amazing players, and also the midfielders I play with. It is so difficult to answer this question because they all have their own qualities.
The best player I have played against is Messi and Ronaldo. With those two, it is difficult to say who is the best. In interviews, sometimes I choose Messi, and sometimes I choose Ronaldo, but I just appreciate them both. It’s what you prefer as a person because one has something better than the other.
Do you feel like a major trophy is around the corner for your national team? You have an amazing squad.
You never know what’s going to happen in tournaments, it is not guaranteed that the best teams always win, so it’s difficult to say. During a tournament with national teams, you deal with certain situations that help you learn and grow during the tournament. We are having a really good period at the moment, and we need to keep that going. There is a possibility we can win something, but you never know if it’s around the corner or not.
What felt better: winning the Premier League or winning the Champions League?
They were both very good feelings. We could enjoy the Champions League with the fans, so we enjoyed it more because we could not do this with the Premier League. However, if you look at what the fans and staff wanted, the Premier League was the biggest thing. For me as a player, though, it has to be the Champions League; I could enjoy it more.
How did it feel after the Semi Final of the Champions League when you helped your team progress to the final?
I was really delighted after the game; I was really happy. We lost the away game, but we thought it was possible to win the home game, so to have a really big input and influence in it was amazing, of course.
There are certain moments in life which define you both as a player and as a person. What are your moments?
My defining moments are enjoying the success I have with my friends and family; I really love that. It is quite simple, but it means a lot to me. Basically, I want to enjoy my success with my family and friends.
What are your hobbies and other business ventures when you’re off the field?
My latest hobby and interest is photography. That’s what I do now when I’m off the pitch, I take pictures of my family and friends and edit them. I don’t want to say I’m really good right now, but I know what I’m doing [laughs]. It’s memories; you know when you save pictures, you’re saving the moments. It will always remind us of the time we were in. If I took pictures now and, in the pictures, everyone is wearing masks, you’d remember it was the time of the coronavirus.
“It’s memories you know when you save pictures, you’re saving the moments.”
Has Joep, your photographer, been giving you any tips on your photography?
Yeah, he always helps me. We speak to each other on a daily basis because if I take pictures and I don’t get something, I call him straight away, he always helps me, and I’m still learning. I’m happy that he wants to help me because nowadays people don’t help each other enough.
How do you think social media has influenced the modern-day footballer, and how has it helped you off the field to engage with your fans?
To be fair, I’m still learning about it, and I’m not really that active. I see some people use their social media more; I use it sometimes to show people my life. I’ve tried to use it and help with the issue of racism because, with social media, you can reach a lot of people and followers. Footballers, athletes, and movie stars all have big followings, and social media helps to reach out, so it is important to use the platform to help and learn.
You have over 4.5 million followers across the world on Instagram, so you have to be careful about what you’re posting there.
Yes, of course, sometimes you have to keep in mind that we set an example for people, you have to think, but my life is quite normal [Gini laughs].
Tell us a bit about your favourite clothing brand and what you like to wear.
I like to wear tracksuits, they are easy to wear and can look good, but I like everything. If it looks good, I’ll wear it. I like all kinds of brands; I can wear expensive brands but also like H&M and Zara, if it is nice, I will buy it. I am sponsored by Adidas, and their tracksuits are really good because they look nice, feel comfortable and are good to wear.
Are there any brands that you feel compliment your style or brands you like to keep an eye on for the latest releases?
I like Dior, but also, like in our photo shoot, I like Prada; I saw it and thought it looks beautiful. Let’s do it! [Gini laughs].
What is your favourite timepiece?
I think it depends on what you wear, if you wear something sporty like a tracksuit, a Richard Mille watch looks quite nice, but Patek Philippe when you wear more casual clothes. Of course, it goes the other way around, but I like to wear them in this way.
After your season, where is your favourite holiday destination you like to visit and relax?
I love Dubai. I love going to Dubai- one of my favourite destinations. I like to travel to experience other places; I like seeing other countries and seeing how beautiful they are.
Tell us more about your taste in music; who is your favourite artist?
Drake, yes, Drake.
“Drake, yes, Drake.”
Name some of your favourite songs that you listen to.
I like to listen to everything. If it sounds good, I listen to it. I like ‘Gimme Life’. Memphis has brought out music that I like, and Dutch music is quite good too. I like Lil Wayne, he brought a mixtape out recently, but I also like his mixtape from 11/12 years ago.
(Single) Over Now – Calvin Harris Feat. The Weekend
(Single) Maleek Berry – Gimme Life
(Album) No Ceilings – Lil Wayne
It’s always good for established players such as yourself to give advice to the younger players. You have a great lifestyle; do you have any advice for the younger players who read SWM to prolong that lifestyle?
I know that sometimes it is hard because you want to go and enjoy time with your friends, but they don’t have the same life and responsibilities, so you need to deal with some situations. You have to train hard and rest, it is difficult, but you need to make the choice of what is good for you and what will help you reach where you want to be. If you make it into the first team, show that you want it so much that the players around you will help; let them know you want their help. Some act like they don’t need help, but it is not the case; everybody needs help.
Andrew, Liam and the team at SWM have been fantastic for me since I joined Liverpool. They have helped me source vehicles and travel arrangements as well as other products and services for me and my family. I love getting the magazines at the training ground with all the other players. Great magazine.