Paris Saint-Germain’s Georginio Wijnaldum talked with CBS Sports ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Group A heavyweight clash with Manchester City on Paramount+ and the Netherlands international recognizes that the two teams are favorites to advance.
Pep Guardiola’s men opened with a 6-3 thumping of RB Leipzig while PSG were held to a 1-1 draw by Club Brugge, but Wijnaldum does not necessarily believe that coming out on top on this clash will make either one the strong overall favorite.
“In the group, it is City,” said the 30-year-old. “For the title, it is more a question of the squad and who develops. I do not really look at different favorites. If you look at our group, we are the two favorites. Overall, though, I do not see a favorite.”
Wijnaldum has fond memories of his clashes with City over the years as a Liverpool player and favors this match-up due to the Citizens’ quality and the test that they will provide for PSG as a work in progress.
“The games I have played in against City were always good games,” he said. “They have a great team with a good manager who always wants them to play beautiful football. It is always nice to play against a team like that. It is also good for us to compare ourselves against a team like theirs. It is a good test for us.”
Now playing for Mauricio Pochettino with PSG, Wijnaldum revealed that he was close to linking up with the Argentine when he was a Newcastle United player and wanted by the then Tottenham Hotspur manager.
“I spoke with him six years ago and he wanted to sign me then with Tottenham,” said the ex-Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven man. “Our conversation back then was a good one and when you speak with someone, you can feel their energy.
“We spoke before I joined Liverpool and it was already a really good conversation. He convinced me to join Tottenham and I wanted at that moment to go but the clubs did not agree. After that I spoke with Jurgen Klopp which was also an amazing conversation.
“Our (Wijnaldum and Pochettino’s) conversation pre-PSG did not need to be that long because there were a lot of things which he did not need to tell me or show me!”
Wijnaldum also remembers PSG as tough customers in the Champions League after a 3-2 home win and 2-1 away loss the season that Liverpool ultimately went all the way and won the title and the Parisien supporters also made an impression on him.
“Two difficult games,” said the man from Rotterdam. “They came back in the first match because of the quality in the squad and how good they were as a team even then. It was a different team to now. In Paris, they were good and aggressive and won. I have to say that the supporters were amazing which also helped PSG. They were already a good team — even then.”
PSG lost the 2020 Champions League final to Bayern Munich and fell at the semi-finals stage last season to Tuesday’s opponents, City, and Wijnaldum knows how his new teammates feel, having fallen short with the Reds against Real Madrid before ultimate success.
“We have not spoken about it, but I know what they feel as I was in the same situation,” he said. “I know how eager they are to win this title. The feeling when you reach a final is one of the best experiences you can have.”
On Liverpool’s success and how PSG could benefit from his experience of it, Wijnaldum admitted that setback are a part of the game and that they can be used positively if learned from in the right way.
“The Liverpool team I won the Champions League with was already a team that had been playing together for a few years,” he said. “We grew over the years. We had our major setback, but also many good things.
“The most important thing was that we were together for a couple of years to grow and improve together. Setbacks that we had, like losing the Champions League, also helped us. We were able to bounce back from that and won the league the year after the Champions League.
“Compared with my current team, PSG, there a lot of players with a lot of experience and have won a lot. We still need to make it a good team and we are just a few weeks in.”
You can see Wijnaldum and his PSG teammates take on City in Group A this Tuesday exclusively on Paramount+.