Rafa Benitez says he doesn’t believe there should be any “animosity” towards Georginio Wijnaldum on his return to St James’s Park.
Wijnaldum spent just one season at Newcastle United before joining Liverpool last year in a £25million deal.
He scored some goals here. What I said about (Liverpool’s Philippe) Coutinho, you could say about Gini. Sometimes players receive massive offers, and it’s very difficult to say no.Rafa Benitez
The midfielder made an explosive start to his career on Tyneside – he scored four goals in one game – after moving from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2015.
However, Wijnaldum struggled for form as the club battled to stay in the Premier League. And the Holland international’s performances in the second half of the 2015-16 season drew criticism from fans.
Wijnaldum’s move – and the £30million sale of Moussa Sissoko to Tottenham Hotspur – allowed Benitez to rebuild his squad for the Championship last season.
Asked about Wijnaldum’s return to St James’s Park for tomorrow’s Premier League game against the Reds (1.30pm), Benitez said: “I think he’ll be OK.
“He scored some goals here. What I said about (Liverpool’s Philippe) Coutinho, you could say about Gini. Sometimes players receive massive offers, and it’s very difficult to say no.
“He was going to a massive club from a team that was relegated to the Championship, and then you have a massive offer from a top side.
“It’s difficult for a professional, and especially for a foreign player, to say no.
“I think he was happy here and he appreciated the relationship with the fans. Everything here was fine.
“He was a happy player. But he had the offer, he went there. I think the fans will say ‘fine, fair enough’. I don’t see any animosity against him because he left. I think the fans will understand.”
Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has reacted to criticism of his team’s form.
The Reds, fifth in the Premier League, have won just once in six matches in all competitions in September.
Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw by Spartak Moscow in a Champions League group game on Tuesday night.
Klopp, however, is “not interested” in the criticism. “I’m not interested in the criticism – it shouldn’t have any effect,” said Klopp, who has Sadio Mane back from suspension.
“There are a few teams who are obviously flying. Does it mean the other teams should not try to fly also?
“Do we all have to give up and say ‘they are so good this year, oh my God, I really want to have a season ticket for Manchester – whichever stadium’. Or is it allowed we really try to sort our things and improve?”