Georginio Wijnaldum has opened up over his decision to leave Liverpool for Paris Saint-Germain, suggesting that he 'didn't feel loved or appreciated' by supporters due to the levels of online abuse he received.
The 30-year-old spent five successful years at Anfield, winning the Champions League and the Premier League title, before allowing his contract to run down and leave on a free transfer in the summer.
And during an interview with The Times, Wijnaldum admitted that he sometimes didn't feel 'loved and appreciated' by Liverpool supporters, after he was regularly a target of social media abuse from disgruntled fans.
“There was some moment when I didn’t feel love and appreciated there,” Wijnaldum said.
“Not by my teammates, not the people at Melwood. I know they all loved me and I loved them. It was not from that side, more from the other side.
“The fans in the stadium and the fans in social media were two different things. In the stadium, I can say nothing bad about them. They always supported me.
“On social media if we lost I was the one who got the blame — [claiming] that I wanted to leave. There was a moment when I was like, ‘Wow, if they only knew what I was doing to stay fit and play every game.’
"You cannot complain because that is your job. But other players might have said, ‘I’m not fit.’ You get players in their last year who are like, ‘I’m not playing because it’s a risk.’ I did the opposite. I didn’t always play good but after the game I could look in the mirror and say, ‘I trained hard to get better.’
“There was a moment when I didn’t feel loved. In the last two seasons I had it a few times. The media didn’t help. There was a story like I didn’t accept the [Liverpool] offer because I wanted more money, and the fans made it like ‘OK, he didn’t get the offer so he doesn’t try his best to win games.’ Everything looked like it was against me. Some moments it was like, ‘Wow, me again?’"
However, Wijnaldum maintained that his relationships with other players and coach Jurgen Klopp were immaculate, and he had to 'fight against tears' during his finals weeks at the club.
“My teammates never had the feeling that I let them down or was taking the piss. For the manager, I was someone he was really sure he could trust. It also helped because I could play in different positions and do it well in different positions. I’d give everything.
“I got so much love not only from the fans but the manager and the players, the people who worked at the club. Players came to me saying, ‘This is your last training session, this is your last week at the club.’ It was really difficult and also emotional. A lot of times I had to fight against my tears. The love everyone showed [during and after that final game, against Crystal Palace] was beautiful.”
Curiously, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher offered a scathing response to Wijnaldum's words, claiming the Dutchman should 'delete the app' if the abuse he receives on Twitter affects him.
"I love Gini but this is not right, social media is a circus & every club has clowns," Carragher said.
"Turn off your notifications & if it’s bothering you that much delete the app! He wanted more money the club said no, that’s football!"