Rafa Benitez insists he has no negative views towards Georginio Wijnaldum after he left Newcastle to join Liverpool in 2016.
The Dutch midfielder looks set to come up against his former side on Sunday when the Reds travel to St James’ Park in their last Premier League match before the international break.
Wijnaldum joined the Magpies from PSV in 2015 and quickly emerged as a star man, although he wasn’t able to help his team avoid relegation.
Whilst Benitez remained with Newcastle as they dropped into the Championship, Wijnaldum sealed a switch to Anfield where he has since become a prominent figure in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield trio.
Despite the move, Benitez doesn’t expect to see the 26-year-old get a bad reception and believes fans understood his decision.
“I think he’ll be OK,” he told The Shields Gazette.
“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.”
It promises to be an emotionally-fuelled day for the Liverpool man as he returns to the ground that paved his way into English football.
A hint of irony also looms over him as well, with his wait for his first away goal in the Premier League set to continue whether he scores or not given the 11 he registered during his spell on Tyneside.
As unforgiving as Newcastle fans can be, it seems unlikely he’ll be given a hard time upon his return.
Let’s just hope he can give his teammates a few pointers.