With three games of their season remaining, Liverpool currently sit just one point off fourth place in the Premier League table. With Liverpool on an eight game unbeaten game in the league, the reds’ former full-back Glen Johnson believes that Liverpool will leapfrog both Manchester United and Newcastle United and finish third season. Glen also spoke to Betfred regarding why he believes Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will be even more interested in West Ham’s Declan Rice after Sunday’s meeting between both sides, Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid and why Chelsea should pursue a move for Lionel Messi.
Liverpool are just one point off fourth place after Manchester United’s defeat to West Ham on Sunday evening. Do you believe Liverpool are going to pip Manchester United or Newcastle United to a Champions League spot?
“I do now. I’ve previously said that Liverpool would have to go on a six to eight game unbeaten run to have any chance and they’ve done that. Liverpool have certainly got the momentum and Manchester United are inconsistent at present, so I believe Liverpool are the favourites out of them, Manchester United and Newcastle United to finish in the top four.
“Out of Manchester United and Newcastle United, I think that Liverpool are going to most likely finish in the top four at the expense of Newcastle. I believe that Liverpool will finish third this season as they’re the most consistent team out of the three competing at present and it will not be a fluke if they finish there.”
After his winner against Brentford on Saturday, where for you does Mohamed Salah rank amongst Liverpool and the Premier League’s greatest players ever?
“He’s certainly up there. He’s a world-class player but the Premier League and Liverpool have had many world-class players, so to say he’s the greatest is a tough call to make. He’s certainly in the top five or ten players to grace the Premier League and even higher in Liverpool’s ranks.”
James Milner is set for a summer move to Brighton. Do you believe this is a good move for all parties involved, or would you have liked James to remain at Anfield next season?
“As we all know, Milly’s getting older and he’s going to play more at Brighton because unfortunately, his age means that he can’t bang the door down for a starting place at Liverpool. I think it’s a move that’s good for both James and Brighton and the latter is getting one of the most experienced players in the league and he will be great in the dressing room. Liverpool fans will be sad to see him go as Milly is so professional wherever he goes and he always gives his best.”
With Milner set for Brighton, it looks even more likely that Alexis Mac Allister will be heading in the other direction for a rumoured £70 million. Do you believe Alexis is worth £70 million? Would you have rather seen Liverpool move for Chelsea’s Mason Mount instead and do you believe Alexis Mac Allister would command a starting berth at Liverpool?
“Even though it sounds silly to say, nowadays, £70 million for a good player isn’t that expensive, is it? Alexis is certainly a good player but if you have to spend £70 million, then I’d rather that money was spent on Mason Mount. Mason would have suited the team better, he would have got into the starting eleven and I don’t believe that Alexis can instantly command a starting berth in Liverpool’s team. He would certainly be a good squad player, but I’d have preferred if they signed Mason Mount.”
Another potential arrival at Anfield this summer is Ajax defender Jurrien Timber. Jurrien was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United last summer and Virgil van Dijk has previously reserved high praise for his international colleague. Would you like to see him move to Liverpool this summer and could the club benefit from having two international colleagues as their centre-back pairing next season?
“Virgil obviously knows him better than I do but he has 15 caps for Holland, so he clearly has a lot about him. If you’ve got the two Holland international team’s centre-backs as your defensive pairing at club level, then usually that’s a bloody good start. To play as many times as he has for his country at his age and for Virgil to speak so highly of him, then he’s clearly a very good player.”
Do you believe Trent Alexander-Arnold will be playing as a midfielder permanently for Liverpool in the future?
“No. I think he’s good enough to pull it off in certain games against certain teams, but I don’t believe he’s a natural midfielder. People usually want attacking full-backs to become wingers, but they shouldn’t because they’re good attacking full-backs as they play the game from a deeper position and the games in front of them, so just let them do what they’re good at and don’t try to be too clever with it.”
What are your thoughts on Cody Gakpo and Darwin Núñez’s first season at Anfield?
“I believe Núñez has shown great promise. I really like him as he wears his heart on his sleeve, he works his socks off, he’s quick and I believe he’s similar to Luis Díaz.
“Cody Gakpo started quite slow, which is completely understandable as he moved to a new league mid-season. He’s starting to find his feet and despite him not reaching the heights that he’s capable of yet, I believe he’s going to be a great player and in certain games he’s looked really good going forward and I believe he’s only going to get better.”
Your former teammate Xabi Alonso is one of the favourites for the Tottenham Hotspur job. If Alonso was to be appointed, then what type of character are Tottenham getting as their manager?
“Firstly, he’s a top bloke. He’s very calm in his demeanor, but you can see his fiery side when something upsets him. You need that as a manager of a top club that has some big egos amongst the playing staff, so I do believe Xabi would be ideal for that role. He’s similar to Mauricio Pochettino in terms of how casual they both are and how the players would love them, but when Xabi needs to fire a rocket your way, then he’s capable of doing that as well.”
Chelsea are reportedly keen on taking João Félix on loan again next season. Would you rate his current loan move a success and do you believe he can be an excellent addition next season under the right stewardship?
“I do believe he could be an excellent addition next season if he returns to Chelsea. I struggle to understand why the club would want to do another loan as they’ll have to spend a lot to borrow him essentially, so they may as well just sign him permanently.
“His current loan spell could have been better, through no fault of his own. The club is really struggling at the moment, but when he’s been performing he’s looked great, so you can totally understand why Chelsea would want to keep him. If he comes on loan next season, then Chelsea are at risk of seeing him head elsewhere once it’s finished. Chelsea may as well go the extra mile to try and sign him.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, Chelsea are leading the race to sign Inter Milan goalkeeper André Onana. They’re said to be prepared to pay £40 million for the Cameroonian and in your opinion, is this a signing that you’d be happy with and do you believe André is a better goalkeeper than either Édouard Mendy or Kepa Arrizabalaga?
“It’s not a signing that I’m fully against, but I just don’t believe that Chelsea need another goalkeeper right now. £40 million is a lot of money for a goalkeeper but they did spend almost double that on Kepa, so Chelsea already has two well regarded goalkeepers at the club. I don’t believe Chelsea need to focus on recruiting in this position right now as both Édouard Mendy and Kepa are very good on their day. I’d only sign André Onana if one of those two were to leave the club for big money.”
Chelsea are linked with a move for Leeds United and Italy forward Wilfried Gnonto. Despite his club’s struggles this season, Gnonto has been a bright spark in his club’s campaign. Do you believe Wilfried has a big future and would you like to see him make the move to Stamford Bridge?
“When he plays, he performs well for a struggling team. He’s a luxury that Leeds United can’t afford to have at the moment and that’s probably why he’s not starting. He’s a player with a lot of promise, his movement is good, but he’s probably in the wrong place at the wrong time currently. Could he improve at a club with better players? Of course he could. He’s got age on his side and for Chelsea, it would be a relatively straightforward purchase I’d imagine.”
In August last year, Chelsea failed with an audacious deadline day move for Southampton’s Roméo Lavia. Your former club are said to be back in with a chance of securing his signature this summer and do you believe the 19-year-old is a fantastic prospect?
“He’s looked decent when he’s played and he’s very young. I believe Chelsea are keeping even more of an eye on this move in case Southampton get relegated and they can sign Roméo for less than they’d have expected. He’s been one of the brightest components of Southampton’s season and if he’s that good, then he won’t want to be playing in the Championship. I believe there would be less need to sign Roméo if Southampton stayed up because the prospect of shrewd business is potentially the most appealing factor to prospective buyers. He still needs to prove himself a bit more, but the fact that Southampton are likely to go down makes it even easier for Chelsea to sign him.”
Arsenal and Tottenham are interested in signing Crystal Palace centre-back, and former Chelsea youth product, Marc Guéhi. Considering how much he’s impressed during his time at Selhurst Park, do you believe Chelsea should consider re-signing Marc?
“He’s got into the England squad early on in his career and that doesn’t happen often if you’re a centre-back. He’s young, he has a very bright future and Chelsea have shown that they’re not shy about re-signing former players, so they, as well as the other big teams, will be looking at him.”
Overall, how do you view Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s time at Chelsea? Has it been a disaster? Do you not believe he’s been given enough of a chance?
“It can’t be far away from a disaster to be honest. When Chelsea signed him, we all knew how good he can be when he’s happy and he’s working hard, but sadly we haven’t seen that side of Aubameyang enough.
“I don’t believe it’s a case of him not having enough chances at Chelsea, I believe he’s had the opportunities, but he’s been poor more often than not. Against Arsenal a few weeks ago, he had five or six touches before he was dragged off and you can’t do that in a big game like that.
“The move has been close to a disaster and that’s surprised me as I believe he’s a very good player. I thought he was going to do well for Chelsea.”
Do you believe Aubameyang would have been a success at Chelsea if Thomas Tuchel wasn’t sacked in September?
“Yes, most likely. When managers come and go at Chelsea, of course it’s going to upset some players more than others, especially when you’re adapting to the club and looking to find your way. If a manager signs you and then they’re sacked so quickly, then of course it’s going to leave you deflated. Aubameyang’s possibly the perfect example of the chaos going on at Chelsea at the moment.”
Chelsea are amongst the number of clubs interested in Napoli’s Victor Osimhen. Do you believe that the Serie A top scorer would be the ideal striking option for Chelsea to pursue this summer?
“He’s a natural goalscorer and he’s the type of player that Chelsea needs. I know that Serie A is not the Premier League, but it’s still a league with top players and top teams, so to score as many goals as he has is a great achievement. I don’t believe it’s a signing that will break the bank for Chelsea, so it’s definitely a move that I’d like them to pursue.”
Chelsea are reportedly interested in Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martínez. Are you surprised that more Premier League clubs aren’t linked with a move for the Argentinian who has 97 goals in 230 appearances for the Serie A club?
“If you’re scoring a goal almost every two games for a club like Inter Milan, then you’ve got to be a serious player. He’s obviously not done it in the Premier League yet, but it certainly seems as if he has all the attributes to succeed in England. I believe many of the top teams will want him, but as he’s already at a top club, I imagine it would be an expensive move for whoever goes for him.”
France international and Bayern Munich defender Benjamin Pavard is linked with a move to Chelsea at present. Do you believe Chelsea could do with a defender of Benjamin’s versatility considering he’s capable of playing at right-back and centre-back?
“Yes, definitely. He’s a player that’s playing for a top club at the highest level and it’s always important to have players that are capable of playing in a handful of positions. You can certainly understand why Chelsea would be interested in Pavard as he’s a great player that’s played many times for France and the fact he can play a few positions is the reason why he’s so sought after.”
Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel is said to be keen on a reunion with Édouard Mendy this summer. Would you be sad to see Mendy leave Chelsea?
“I think he would be a big loss to Chelsea. He’s another player that’s seemed to struggle with the chaos at Chelsea at present, but when he had stable foundations around him when he first moved to the Premier League, then he seemed to be one of the best.
“You can understand why Bayern Munich want him but I believe Chelsea should do all they can to keep him as I believe he’s their number one.”
It’s been confirmed that Lionel Messi is set to leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer. Chelsea are one of the clubs linked with a move and considering that he’s available on a free transfer, do you believe Chelsea need to do all they can to sign the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner?
“We don’t know how realistic this move is, but it’s all down to what Messi wants to do next. Does he want to remain at the highest level of the game and try and win the Premier League or does he want to play somewhere like the MLS and play in a desirable location with good weather? If he still wants to play at the top level, then every major club is going to do everything they can to try and sign him because of the revenue he can generate for clubs and despite his age, he’s still one of the best players in the world.”
After Declan Rice’s performance against Manchester United on Sunday night, do you believe Erik ten Hag would have left the London Stadium believing he has to sign the England international?
“After that performance, I believe Declan Rice would have gone well up in Erik ten Hag’s estimations, but I’m sure Erik would have had a great opinion of Declan beforehand anyway. To put in a performance like that, when your team is struggling, it shows all the top teams just how good he is.”
Do you believe Declan Rice is worth £100-£120 million?
“I guess he has to be. The fact that top teams want him pushes the price up, his age pushes the price up and the fact that he’s English is always going to make him more expensive for Premier League clubs. He’s one of the best around in his position, so when you think about all those factors, then he has to be worth what’s being quoted for him. I believe it will definitely be north of £100 million.”
Is Real Madrid the perfect move to Jude Bellingham? Do you have no doubt whatsoever that Jude will be a success at the Santiago Bernabéu?
“I don’t believe there’s anything to suggest that Jude won’t be a success at Real Madrid. He’s already proved that he’s mentally strong enough to play abroad and move out of his comfort zone, so now he’s going to go to Real Madrid and win all sorts of trophies. He has all the attributes to be one of the best midfielders they’ve had.”
Do you believe Jude has the perfect platform at Real Madrid to become a future Ballon d’Or winner?
“It’s hard to win the Ballon d’Or in Jude’s position as you have to be sensational. If a striker’s sensational, then that means they’re scoring 40, 50 goals in a year and that’s going to catch everybody’s attention. To win it as a central midfielder is super tough, but I believe that Jude will certainly be in the race for those accolades in the future.”
If Jude is a success at Real Madrid, do you then believe we’re unlikely to see him move to the Premier League in the future?
“As long as he’s performing for Real Madrid, then I do believe he’d have no reason to move to the Premier League in the future. They’re going to win La Liga every other year and they’ll always go deep in the Champions League, so as long as Jude’s cemented in their midfield, then he’ll have no reason to go anywhere else.”
If Harry Kane was to join Manchester United this summer, then do you believe he can turn the club into title challengers next season?
“No, not on his own. He will 100% improve them, but unfortunately Harry can’t play centre-midfield, centre-back and in goal. They’re going to have to bring some other top players in alongside Harry, because I don’t believe that only signing Harry will make them automatic title contenders.”
Do you believe David de Gea’s time at Manchester United needs to come to an end?
“Possibly. For a top goalkeeper, he makes a lot of silly, crazy mistakes. Those mistakes can only come from a lack of concentration or where his head’s at. He’s capable of making a high profile error, before making two of the best saves you’ve ever seen. It’s really, really strange.
“It depends where he’s at. He doesn’t seem happy, so a move may spark his interest and if that did come to fruition, I believe that both parties will be reasonably happy.”
Which three teams do you believe will be relegated from the Premier League this season after Everton and Nottingham Forest’s victories at the weekend?
“I still believe Southampton and Nottingham Forest will go down and they’ll be joined by either Everton or Leeds United. Everton got a big win against Brighton at the weekend, but they’re so flaky at the moment, so it’s a tough call to make.”
Luton, Middlesbrough, Coventry or Sunderland, who’s going to get promoted to the Premier League via the Championship play-offs?
“I’d probably say Middlesbrough. I believe they’ve got more match winners in their squad, but every team has done so well to get into the play-offs as it’s such a bloody tough league. I do believe though that Boro will get the job done.”