The Saudi transfer window shuts this Thursday and Liverpool’s talisman Mo Salah’s future is still unclear. With strong interest arriving from Al-Ittihad, ex-Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson believes that his former club should accept a £200 million bid for Salah, if the offer was to arrive. Johnson also spoke to Betfred regarding his former teammate Raheem Sterling’s England squad omission, Chelsea’s slow start to the Premier League season and the Stamford Bridge club reportedly passing up on the opportunity to sign James Maddison.

What are your thoughts on Chelsea’s performance against Nottingham Forest on Saturday? Are you very concerned by their early season performances?

“They showed glimpses of hope but if you’re trying to challenge for the Premier League, the top four or even the top six, you have to be beating Nottingham Forest at home. At the start of the season they were amongst the favourites to get relegated, so it’s a very disappointing defeat for Chelsea. 

“Chelsea played some decent football at times, so it’s difficult to put your finger on what went wrong. If you’re losing that game though, you’re miles off it. Manchester City wouldn’t have lost that game, so if Chelsea want to compete, then they need to figure out how to win these games.

“I just believe that there’s so much going on. There’s loads of new players and the owners are still relatively new to the club, so there needs to be a bit of time to allow the dust to settle.

“This team is currently too young to compete for the Premier League title. The owners are trying to buy for the future, which is obviously a good thing, but you still need to compete in the short-term. They need to compete now and they need more experience within the group and players that are used to the Premier League. You can’t just continue to buy 20 years old and expect to challenge for the Premier League title in five years, because it’s Chelsea for god’s sake and you need to compete now.”

Is Mauricio Pochettino under pressure already in the Chelsea hotseat?

“No, I don’t believe he’s under pressure. He’s a very good manager with a difficult job on his hands at the moment and it’s going to take time for him to get it right. I believe they have the right man for the job and I do believe that Chelsea are on the right path and we’re going to see them compete in the near future.”

Speaking of managers potentially under pressure already, is Erik ten Hag at Manchester United?

“I don’t believe he’s under pressure. Ten Hag’s a very good manager but Manchester United are too inconsistent. Manchester United should be winning most games and they need their best players to find some form soon. On paper, they have a bloody good team but I just believe that there’s a bit of an imbalance at the moment. I expect Manchester United to improve once Erik ten Hag identifies what that imbalance is.”

What do you think of Thiago Silva’s online spat with Chelsea fans after the club’s 1-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest?

“I don’t mind it at all because it shows that both the fans and the players care. The fans don’t know more than Thiago Silva. That’s a fact, but it’s a good indication of the desire that both the fans and players have and it’s a sign that both parties want more.”

What are your thoughts on Moisés Caicedo’s start to life at Chelsea?

“He’s joined a big club as their record signing and he’s definitely not had the best of starts. I believe he’s a very good player and I do ultimately believe that he will be a quality signing for Chelsea. There’s a lot going on at Chelsea and it’s not easy for new players to settle in quickly so I want to give him time, but if you’re a big player, then you can’t keep making these mistakes. When a team’s best players start playing well, then it brings the best out of the other players and Moisés needs to find his feet very soon. Ultimately, I believe Moisés will be a good signing for Chelsea.”

Are you excited by the potential of Chelsea’s new £45 million signing Cole Palmer? Do you believe Manchester City will regret letting him go in the long run?

“Being completely honest, I had never seen him play before his debut for Chelsea. To pay £45 million for a player with his level of experience sounds absolutely bonkers, but the club must be incredibly excited by his potential to offer Manchester City that sort of money. On the face of it, it seems like a very risky transfer but only time will tell if Cole can justify the money that Chelsea spent on him.”

What are your thoughts on Chelsea’s summer transfer business overall? Do you believe they needed to make any further additions in certain areas of the squad and do you believe they’ve spent their money wisely?

“I do like what Chelsea are trying to do but hypothetically if you sign ten players, at least four of them are going to flop. It’s as simple as that. Chelsea have spent a lot of money, so it’s good to see how intent they are on doing the right things and how passionate they are about taking the club back to the top. Chelsea just need to sign a few more players that have experience playing for big teams and have won trophies. You can’t just sit there and wait for the youngsters they’ve bought to come good for them because that’s a risky move. A mixture of experience and youth would be a good option for Chelsea.

“There’s going to be reservations surrounding all of their summer signings until they’ve begun to prove themselves. They’ve signed a couple of players that look good already, but they’ve also signed a couple of players who don’t look very good also. Most of their signings haven’t lived up to the hype so far.”

Mauricio Pochettino has recently claimed that he believes Nicolas Jackson will one day be amongst the best strikers in world football. Do you agree with this notion? 

“It’s a bit too early to predict whether Nicolas will become one of the best strikers in the world. I just believe it’s a case of Pochettino trying to give his striker some confidence, but it’s a bit too early to make a big claim like that. I do believe he will prove to be a brilliant signing for Chelsea and the good thing about Nicolas is that he’s getting himself in the positions to miss.”

It was reported that Chelsea passed on the opportunity to sign James Maddison. Considering the form he’s in for Tottenham Hotspur, do you believe Chelsea will be kicking themselves for allowing their rivals to sign the England international?

“Yes, they’re probably kicking themselves a little bit because Maddison went to Tottenham for a relatively low price when you consider the figures that some clubs are paying for players. He’s a good player, he’s a free spirit and has a swagger about him. He’s the type of player that every top club needs. Does he perform every week? No, he doesn’t but Chelsea had the chance to sign someone of Maddison’s quality for relatively cheap and I believe they will be kicking themselves that they didn’t pursue the deal.”

After his public spat with Erik ten Hag, Monday’s papers have suggested that Chelsea could offer Jadon Sancho an escape route from Manchester United. Do you believe Jadon would be a good signing for your former club?

“If you’re not getting in Manchester United’s squad, then you’re not getting into Chelsea’s. Jadon came to the Premier League with a lot of potential, but that potential only lasts so long and you need to start proving it. He joined a huge club with a massive reputation and he hasn’t done anything. He’s a bit like Wilfried Zaha, a player that offers an awful lot but offers very little. If you can’t work hard in training then you’re not going to play and as he’s currently not good enough for Manchester United, then he’s not going to be good enough for Chelsea.”

Do you believe Marc Cucurella can resurrect his Chelsea career after his loan move to Manchester United collapsed in the final days of the transfer window? 

“I still believe that Cucurella is a good player, despite the fact that he’s not very consistent, but sometimes you need a fresh start to resurrect your career. If you’re not playing for a club and another big club comes in for you, then I believe the player needs to push for the move, so I think Cucurella will be kicking himself as he could be playing every single week for Manchester United. Instead, Marc’s still at Chelsea and is likely to be a bit-part player this season. I believe Marc is good enough to still make an impact at a big club and I believe that he needs to find his happy place and take himself out of his comfort zone.”

Levi Colwill received his first senior England call-up on Thursday. Do you believe there’s a good chance he can start for England at Euro 2024, especially when you consider that Harry Maguire’s currently down Manchester United’s pecking order? Is that spot in England’s starting XI Levi’s for the taking?

“I believe he could start for England at Euro 2024, but I think it’s dependent on what formation they decide to play. I watched him against Liverpool a few weeks ago and he looked very good technically, but I also believe that he’s quite slow and not very athletic. If England decided to play with a back three, then I could see him starting for them at Euro 2024 but if he plays in a centre-back pairing then I would worry about him dealing with pacey players, especially when he needs to get out wide and protect his full-back against world-class wingers.”

Levi’s Chelsea teammate Raheem Sterling didn’t receive a call-up to the England squad for the fixtures against Scotland and Holland, which has surprised many. What do you make of this decision to leave out Raheem?

“I’m one of Raheem’s biggest fans but I believe he’s not been chosen due to his form. He’s lost his confidence a bit and Raheem is at his best when he doesn’t need to think. Now that things aren’t going too well for him, he’s probably overthinking situations and right now, Gareth Southgate is probably right to not call him up. Raz is certainly good enough to play for England but he needs to get his mojo back, start having fun on the pitch and stop panicking about the need to perform. He needs the pressure off him if he’s to get back to his best, but he’s certainly feeling it at the moment.”

What are your thoughts on Liverpool’s performance against Aston Villa on Sunday? How impressed have you been with their start to the Premier League season?

“I’m sure the fans are delighted with Liverpool’s start to the season. Six weeks ago, everybody was feeling negative about their lack of transfer dealings, so fair play to them for starting the season in such an impressive fashion. Liverpool always know what they’re doing in regard to transfers, they don’t allow themselves to get caught up in the big auctions for players and at the moment things are going very well and their points tally reflects that.”

Do you believe Mohamed Salah could still make the move to Saudi Arabia before the 7th of September when their transfer window shuts? 

“If a Saudi club wants a player, then they’ll make it very hard for teams to say no to them because they’re prepared to offer crazy money. Mo Salah is not the Mo Salah of two years ago and if Liverpool receive an offer of £200 million, then they’ve got to accept it. Mo has smashed a load of records and has won everything with Liverpool, so it should be his decision. Does he want to continue challenging for major honours or does he want to play in a league that’s of a lower standard and earn an absolute fortune? It all depends on what Mo wants and if Saudi wants him and he wants to go, then it’s going to be very difficult for Liverpool to stop it.”

According to reports, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp would be furious if Liverpool were to accept a bid for Mo Salah before the Saudi transfer window shuts. If the offer is astronomical for a 31-year-old and the club’s owners believe it’s in their best interest to accept the bid, do you believe this could cause significant damage to the club’s ownership and the manager’s relationship?

“Yes, definitely. The manager is only as good as his players, so he’s going to want the strongest team possible. I’m not suggesting they’re going to but if the owners decide to sell Mo after the Premier League’s transfer window has closed, then that’s going to cause friction as Jürgen will be desperate to keep Mo. However, if Liverpool can sell Salah for £200 million and Jürgen can spend that money on four new players in either January or next summer then it’s not the worst thing in the world, but the owners and the manager need to be in the same camp.”

Are you excited by Liverpool’s deadline day signing, Ryan Gravenberch? Do you have any reservations about the move?

“I think it’s a good deal and Ryan is a player that I like. He’s played for Bayern Munich and Ajax, two huge clubs in their respective countries, and just because he didn’t get a great deal of football at Bayern Munich, then that shouldn’t be a big problem for Liverpool because it’s difficult to break into a team with the quality of Bayern Munich’s. He has a lot to offer Liverpool and by today’s money, he hasn’t cost them a great amount. He could be a really great signing for Liverpool as they need a player of his profile and if he can start enjoying his football again, then they’ve got themselves a really good player for decent money.”

In your opinion, does Darwin Núñez need to be an automatic starter for Liverpool?

“Absolutely. He has to start and I know he’s a fiery character and all that, but you need players like that in your team as all the best players have an edge to them. Whenever he gets the ball, it looks like something’s going to happen and currently he’s scoring goals and getting assists. If you can get him firing on a more regular basis, then Liverpool have got a world-class striker on their hands.” 

Do you still believe that Virgil van Dijk is as good a player as he was two or three years ago?

“I don’t believe he’s the player he was, but I don’t say that as a criticism as it’s complimentary of how bloody good he was. He was the best defender ever a few years ago, but sadly I don’t believe he’s ever fully recovered from the serious injury he received against Everton in 2020. He’s still a world-class player but he’s not the player he was because he set the bar so high in the first place. I believe he may be physically broken a little bit, but he’s still a world-class player.”


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