Your former teammate Jordan Henderson is reportedly desperate to leave Al-Ettifaq in the January transfer window after it was said that the England international has struggled to adapt to life in Saudi Arabia. He received a lot of criticism for making the move to Saudi in the first place and in your opinion, do you believe this spell in the Middle East has greatly tarnished his legacy?
“It doesn’t look great at the moment, but I don’t believe it will harm his legacy because when it comes to football, people’s memories are short. As long as Jordan can get back to doing what he’s best at, then people will soon forget his spell in Saudi Arabia.
“If he comes back to Europe and fails to hit the same sort of level that he was at before his move to the Middle East, then people will blame that move as the reason, won’t they? He has a chance to fix his legacy, but it’s a shame for him that the move to Saudi hasn’t worked out. It was always going to be a risky move because the league is of a lesser standard than he’s used to and when you’re playing at that standard week in, week out, it’s hard to raise your game because you get sucked into that level.
“Hopefully he comes back to Europe, plays at a better standard and gets back to the Hendo we know. Jordan’s one of the best professionals you’ll meet, so I can only imagine that he's frustrated playing at that level on a daily basis. Certain players he plays with won’t be able to do what he’s thinking and expecting, so anybody would get frustrated when the people around you can’t help push you on to reach your highest level of performance. He’s by far the best player in that team.”
Ajax are the current frontrunners for Henderson’s signature if rumours are to be believed. They’re reportedly pursuing a loan move for Jordan and do you believe it would be a good move for him despite Ajax’s struggles this season? He’s also linked with moves to Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and Juventus.
“Despite their struggles this season, Ajax are still a huge club. He may want to come back to Europe and immediately compete for trophies, which is something he’s not going to do at Ajax this season, but he could be attracted to the size of the club.
“I know that he’s linked with other huge European clubs at the moment and I’m sure there will be a long list of interested clubs if he’s available. I don’t believe he will move back to England because he should be aiming to go to a top team and if he moved to a top team in the Premier League, then they’re likely to be a rival of Liverpool. However, I could definitely see him going to Juventus or Bayern Munich because at those clubs he will be winning things. If he goes to Bayern for example and wins the league and another trophy, then people will soon forget about Saudi.”
A report in The Times newspaper has suggested that Kylian Mbappé could be interested in a move to the Premier League this summer and Liverpool are said to be one of Mbappé’s most ‘credible’ suitors. Can you seriously see this move happen?
“I can definitely see why Kylian would want to join Liverpool, but are they going to break the bank for him? It kind of goes against their transfer policy. Is he worth breaking the bank for? Absolutely, but it all depends on whether Liverpool are prepared to do it because everything they do is so calculated and structured, but to get this one over the line, you’ve got to forget about what the stats and the calculator says. You’re going to need deep pockets. I can definitely see why the player would want the move and if Liverpool want to do it, then I’m sure every fan in the country will want to see him in the Premier League.
“If Liverpool are going to save money on a potential £150 million transfer fee, I’m sure Mbappé’s agents will be asking for half of that for themselves and the player, so the deal will be astronomical even if it’s on a free transfer. It’s going to be expensive either way.”
Do you believe Liverpool can win the quadruple this season?
“There’s always a chance because they’re still in every cup competition and they’re top of the Premier League as it stands. Stranger things have happened, but I wouldn’t have guessed at the start of the season that we would be talking about Liverpool potentially winning a quadruple.
“This is what Liverpool do. The reason they’re top of the Premier League at the moment is that they’ve been winning games despite not playing great in a number of matches. A sign of a team that’s going to win things is a side that can win when they’re playing badly and that’s what they’ve had to do at times this season. They’ve not really peaked and they’re still winning games, so they’ve clearly got more to come. Stranger things have happened, but I don’t believe they will win all four because the number of games they’ll have to play is so demanding, but is it possible? Absolutely.”
What’s your overall opinion on Darwin Núñez?
“I really like him and I always have done. He’s always a threat and I love watching him play because he’s fun, wears his heart on his sleeve and brings passion to the game. I’m more worried about strikers who’re not a threat, but I don’t worry for Darwin because he’s always a threat. He may miss a few chances but he’s always dangerous and for him to be doing what he’s doing so early in his Premier League career, I believe he has a lot more to give.”
How highly do you rate Curtis Jones? Do you believe he’s stepped up his game this season?
“Yes I do. He’s a very good player that can play in a very good team, but to go on and become a great for Liverpool, Curtis needs to show that he has the character to go and win games for his side. He needs to be the best player on the pitch and find his side a win out of nowhere because that’s what top players do, but has he got that in his armoury? I’m not sure he does at the moment.
“He’s still young and I like how energetic he is and he’s very good on the ball. He also has the eye to pick the right pass, so he definitely has the attributes to be a top player in his position and he’s on the right trajectory to go up a level.”
Do you believe Curtis could be in England’s squad for Euro 2024?
“At the moment, England are obviously gifted with young. quality players. Midfielders in particular. I believe Curtis will have to raise his game a little bit if he’s to be selected for Euro 2024. If you’re playing for a top club week in, week out and you’re putting in performances, then you’re going to catch the eye of the England manager. He needs to raise his game a little bit to get selected because the decision regarding the squad will come around quickly. I’m sure Curtis is under consideration.”
What’s your prediction for the second-leg of Chelsea’s EFL Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough tonight? Do you believe your former club can turn the tie around in their favour?
“I think they can but let’s face it, the first game wasn’t a fluke. Middlesbrough didn’t steal it and they deserved their win. It’s not going to be easy for Chelsea tonight, so they’re going to have to field their first-team. I expect them to win the game but I’m not sure that they will win by two goals or more. They may need extra-time to secure their passage to the final, but I believe they will get there.”
What percentage of this current Chelsea squad do you want to remain at the club next season?
“I’d only want to see five or six players leave. Many of the players they’ve signed recently didn’t come straight into a settled dressing room because there’s been so much change in terms of the playing staff. When there’s so many changes, it’s difficult to find the right rhythm. Most of the players deserve more time because they’re so young and they shouldn’t be judged too quickly. Obviously, there’s only so much time you can give players but they’ve cost the club a lot of money and deserve the chance to have a full pre-season in the summer and hopefully we see an improved Chelsea next season.”
The Evening Standard have claimed that Chelsea want to sign Brighton striker Evan Ferguson, but The Seagulls reportedly want £100 million for the Republic of Ireland international. Regardless of whether you believe he’s worth that or not, do you believe Evan would be an ideal signing for Chelsea or do you believe a forward with greater experience is needed instead?
“This Chelsea side at the minute needs an experienced striker. 100%. They need a big name that’s going to make their opponents fearful. Regarding Evan Ferguson, don’t get me wrong he may eventually become the next big thing and I hope he does, but Chelsea can’t be spending £100 million on a 19-year-old. They’ve spent a fortune on youngsters already and they don’t have two or three years to wait.
“What are the chances that a 19-year-old is going to have the character and knowledge to be the main man for Chelsea? It’s highly, highly unlikely. In two or three years he may be at the level to achieve that, but not right now because he’s not fully proven yet. £100 million for Evan sounds bonkers to me.”
Chelsea are linked with an astonishing loan move for Al-Ittihad striker, and Real Madrid legend, Karim Benzema. The former Ballon d’Or winner has reportedly been left out of his club’s mid-season training camp in Dubai after repeatedly failing to report for duty and a move to Stamford Bridge in January is now believed to be a possibility. Do you think Chelsea should make their move?
“100%. Absolutely. He’s the type of big-name striker you need because he’s won almost everything in the game and he’s a goal machine, so you’d expect him to adapt easily to the Premier League. If a loan deal is the only option, then Chelsea have to try and sign him.”
Roberto Firmino, who’s struggled to settle and find his form in Saudi Arabia. is another forward linked with a loan move to Stamford Bridge. Do you believe he would make this move if it presented itself considering his legacy at Liverpool and do you believe he would be a great addition for Chelsea?
“I know I’ve said that I can’t see Jordan Henderson joining a rival of Liverpool, but for foreign players it’s a bit different and some are happy to bounce around clubs, which isn’t a bad thing because it is what it is. That move is more realistic for Chelsea.
“Roberto is a bloody great player and he’s a Liverpool legend, but he’s not going to get you 20 goals a season. However, he’s a fantastic player and he’s brilliant at creating chances for his fellow forwards and bringing the game together. He’s not an out-and-out goal machine but would I sign him if I was Chelsea? Yes I would, but I believe they need a proper goalscorer too.
“Firmino’s always looking to link up with players and is more of a number ten than a number nine. Signing him and an out-and-out striker would be absolutely fantastic for Chelsea.”
AS Roma’s Paulo Dybala has an £11 million release clause in his contract that can be activated by non-Serie A clubs in January. Chelsea are the favourites for his signature according to the bookmakers. Do you believe this move is one that your former club should pursue?
“If a player like Dybala is available for £11 million, then you absolutely have to try and sign him. Will he improve the frontline? Absolutely, but Chelsea will still have to sign an out and out goalscorer to go with him. He’s not going to be your focal point and score you 20 goals a season, but he’s a fantastic player. If you’ve got the chance to have him in your starting eleven, then you need to go for him.”
Do you believe Moisés Caicedo and Enzo Fernández are lucky to not receive more criticism for not living up to their price tags, especially when you consider the likes of Manchester United’s Antony who faces so much?
“When you look at it in terms of why Antony is getting so much stick and not them, it does seem unfair, but none of us want to see these players get the stick in the first place. At the end of the day, all of them want to perform at their best, but sometimes in life, that’s not how it is.
“You don’t want to see any of them getting grief, but Antony certainly gets an awful lot of backlash and has, in a way, taken the spotlight away from the likes of Moisés and Enzo. However, I don’t believe any of them deserve that kind of criticism anyway. They’re only criticised because of the price tag, but they haven’t hit the heights.
“Moisés and Enzo have had so much change going on around them. Obviously, if you’re the manager and the club has bought two guys that have cost around £100 million each, you want them to stand up and pull the others into place. You would expect a bit more character from them, but it’s still early in their Chelsea careers and they have put performances in periodically that are top level but by their standards, they haven’t done it as often as we all would have expected.
“Once they find some form, you still have two great players. Chelsea needs to give them both some time to allow the dust settle.”
Chelsea and Arsenal are both linked with a move for Everton’s Amadou Onana. Do you believe he’s destined to play for one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs or do you not see the attraction?
“I like him. For that role he has the perfect physique, similar to Patrick Vieira, and I think he’s a good player that’s still very young.
“One of the main factors as to why all the big clubs are interested in him is because of Everton’s current situation. If he’s going to be relatively cheap because Everton are fighting against relegation, then the player’s going to be interested in a move if one of the top teams comes calling. Is he good enough to kick on and be the main holding player for one of those teams? We are yet to find out, but I think he’s worth taking a risk on.”
Do you believe ex-Chelsea man Timo Werner will be a success at Tottenham Hotspur?
“I’m unsure because when he gets on the ball he looks like a super threat, but when he gets the opportunity to shoot or score, it’s awful. I hate to say it because when he talks, he seems like the nicest person in the game, but what scares me is the way he misses. Everyone misses, but the lack of confidence he has in his own ability to strike the ball scares me.
“In terms of him creating assists and making space for other people then of course, if he plays like that, then he’s going to be a threat. Some of the chances he missed against Manchester United were unbelievable when you see how far he’s missed by. That’s what’s worrying about him as a forward because if you’re an attacking player, you need to be scoring goals.”