Georginio Gregion Emile Wijnaldum born 11 November 1990) is a Dutch professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Premier League club Liverpool and the Netherlands national team.
A youth product of Eredivisie side Feyenoord, Wijnaldum became the youngest player ever to represent the club when he made his debut in 2007, and went on to play 134 matches over the course of a five-year spell. Following his departure from Feyenoord, Wijnaldum spent four seasons at PSV where he won the KNVB Cup in the first season and the Eredivisie in his last. He also earned the Dutch Footballer of the Year award during his time with PSV. In 2015, Wijnaldum joined Premier League side Newcastle United for £14.5 million, before departing following the club’s relegation a year later to join Liverpool in a £23 million deal.
Wijnaldum is also a full Dutch international, having earned more than 40 caps since making his debut in 2011, and was a member of the squad which came third at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Wijnaldum was born and raised in Rotterdam, South Holland. When he was six years old, his parents, who are both of Afro-Surinamese descent, went through a divorce with the result that his mother moved to Amsterdam. However, Wijnaldum decided to stay in Rotterdam and moved in with his grandmother, where he lived for the remainder of his childhood.
In Wijnaldum’s younger years, he never showed interest in football. He never played with a ball or watched football on TV. His ambition was to become a gymnast or acrobat. This changed when Wijnaldum’s nephew asked him to come to Sparta Rotterdam’s opening day with him; then he was invited to the Sparta Rotterdam youth academy and his love for football started to grow slowly.
Wijnaldum has two younger brothers, one of whom, Giliano Wijnaldum, currently plays for Philadelphia Union, as well as a half-brother, Rajiv van La Parra, who currently plays for Huddersfield Town. Wijnaldum was formerly known as Georginio Boateng, but following his mother’s divorce, he took her maiden name (Wijnaldum).
At age six, Wijnaldum developed himself rapidly at Sparta Rotterdam, winning two championship titles in his first two seasons. Soon Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord showed interest in the youngster, but Wijnaldum declined all offers: “I didn’t watch football on TV and I didn’t know any of the first team players of Sparta or any of the top clubs. I only knew the real famous players of Oranje, so the offers didn’t impress me much. I had a good time at Sparta, I wanted to stay.” After playing for Sparta Rotterdam for seven seasons and representing the Netherlands at various youth levels, Wijnaldum decided to accept a new Feyenoord offer. He was convinced playing for Feyenoord was better for his development as a football player and believed in Feyenoord’s vision.
At Feyenoord, Wijnaldum joined a successful generation with the likes of Leroy Fer and Luís Pedro. Wijnaldum stood out as an exceptional talent. In January 2007, a few weeks after turning 16, Wijnaldum was invited to the first team’s training camp in Belek, Turkey, by Feyenoord manager Erwin Koeman.
On 8 April 2007, Wijnaldum made his official debut in Feyenoord’s starting line-up in the Eredivisie home match against Groningen (0–4). At the age of 16 and 148 days, Wijnaldum became the youngest player ever to play in Feyenoord’s first team and was chosen Feyenoord’s man of the match. On 2 December 2007, Wijnaldum scored his first Eredivisie goal for Feyenoord, against Heracles Almelo in a 6–0 home win.
In the 2008–09 season, Wijnaldum made his official European debut. On 18 September 2008, he was named in the starting line-up in the UEFA Cup home match against Kalmar FF (0–1). On 2 October 2008, he scored his first European goal for Feyenoord in the return match against Kalmar FF, which resulted in a 1–2 win and a place in the competition’s group stage.
On 6 March 2009, Wijnaldum signed a new contract at Feyenoord which would have kept him at De Kuip until summer 2012. On 27 February 2011, he helped his struggling Feyenoord to a 5–1 demolition of Groningen, scoring four goals. He scored two goals from open play in the first half and two more from the penalty spot to add his total for the season to eight goals.
On 29 June 2011, the technical director of Feyenoord announced the club had reached a transfer deal for Wijnaldum reported to be worth €5 million with PSV. On the opening day of the 2011–12 Eredivisie season, Wijnaldum made his debut for PSV in a 3–1 loss against AZ. On 21 August 2011, Wijnaldum scored his first goal for PSV in a 3–0 victory against ADO Den Haag. Since joining the club, Wijnaldum established himself in the starting 11 as he scored goals and developed assists from his attacking role in midfield in Eredivisie, the KNVB Cup and the UEFA Europa League. After the retirement of Mark van Bommel and the departure of Kevin Strootman in the summer of 2013, Wijnaldum was named PSV’s captain for the 2013–14 Eredivisie season. However, he played just 11 matches that year, scoring four goals, due to a back injury. For the 2014–15 Eredivisie season, Wijnaldum returned to full fitness and captained PSV to their first Eredivisie title since 2008.
On 11 July 2015, Wijnaldum joined English Premier League club Newcastle United on a five-year contract, for a reported transfer fee of £14.5 million, making him the most expensive signing of Mike Ashley’s ownership. Wijnaldum made his debut on 9 August as Newcastle began the season with a 2–2 home draw against Southampton, heading in a goal from Gabriel Obertan’s cross. He would score his second Newcastle goal in a 2–2 draw with Chelsea on 26 September. On 18 October, Wijnaldum scored four goals in a 6–2 home win over Norwich City, becoming only the second Newcastle player to score more than three goals in a Premier League match. Wijnaldum was considered the player of the match in a game against Liverpool when he forced Martin Škrtel into an own goal as well as scoring himself in a 2–0 win. He scored against Manchester United in a 3–3 draw on 12 January 2016,and again four days later in a 2–1 win against West Ham United, and later scored twice against Tottenham Hotspur in a 5–1 win on the final day of the season, finishing the season as Newcastle’s top goalscorer. However, after the season, Newcastle were relegated to the Championship.
On 22 July 2016, Wijnaldum returned to the Premier League, signing for Liverpool on a five-year contract, for an initial £23 million with a further £2 million in conditional add-ons. He was given the number 5 shirt. He made his Premier League debut for Liverpool against Arsenal on 14 August 2016, where he played 80 minutes and provided an assist for Adam Lallana before being replaced by Kevin Stewart. He scored his first goal for the club in a 6–1 thrashing of Watford on 6 November. On 31 December, he scored the match’s only goal with a powerful header in Liverpool’s 1–0 win over Manchester City to take Liverpool four points clear in second. He was highly praised for his goal. Wijnaldum sealed Liverpool’s 3–1 win over Arsenal on 4 March 2017 with a close-range finish in stoppage time. In the final match of the 2016–17 Premier League season, with Liverpool needing a win over Middlesbrough to secure a top-four finish and a 2017–18 UEFA Champions League berth, Wijnaldum opened the scoring with a first-half stoppage time goal as Liverpool won 3–0.