After England’s agonising defeat on penalties to Italy in the EURO 2020 final, we spoke with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool and England midfielder shared his thoughts on Donnarumma being the best goalkeeper in the world, why Saul Niguez and Adama Traore would be excellent signings for Liverpool and Jordan Pickford needing to take his England form back to Everton.
John Barnes Exclusive: We must stop looking to football to cure racism
“From the footballing side of things, England’s run to the final has brought people together to have belief and support for the country’s team. However, when people want to talk about diversity, and bringing the country together socially from a racial, homophobic or sexist point of view because they can change people’s perceptions, that’s a crock. Look at what’s happened after the game, with players being abused.
“We have to stop looking to football to cure the ills of the world. The nation has come together to support the team, and that’s all it can do, to support England and to help us win football matches and be together as a nation in football. We have to separate other issues, and understand that football can do nothing to combat them.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Donnarumma is the best goalkeeper in the world
“England started the final on the front foot and the first 20 minutes were fantastic. They scored a good goal, they utilised the wingbacks very well, they combined for the goal and caused Italy all kinds of problems.
“England then sat back too much without carrying a threat going forward. In the second half it looked as if we were trying to hold out for a 1-0 win, so once the equaliser went in it was going to be a long half for England. But they showed resilience and good defensive organisation to keep out Italy, who were the better team.
“Then in extra time the game settled down again. Of course, when a game goes to penalties you look at the goalkeepers, and Gianluigi Donnarumma is the best goalkeeper in the world. Goalkeepers are the ones who win penalty shoot-outs – and so it proved to be.
“Of course, Gareth Southgate could have done things differently during the game, and if he had, Italy might have won 2-1 or 3-1.
“When people talk about things like substitutions after we lost, we don’t know whether if he had done that, we would have won.
“When it comes to penalties, you go with the guys who want to take them. Gareth will not have forced anybody to take a penalty, he will have asked who wanted to take penalties and people will have put their hands up. If Rashford, Sancho and Saka had scored, he would have been hailed as a genius. It’s just one of those things.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Don’t get carried away about our World Cup chances
“People are looking ahead to next year and saying England have a chance at the World Cup in Qatar. Well, we [England] had a chance at the Euros, but don’t forget, we avoided Spain, Belgium and France. We had a nice side of the draw, very much like the last World Cup where we beat Colombia and Sweden.
“The only hard game we had was against Germany and they’re a team of the past so, therefore, we beat the teams we should beat.
“Let’s not get carried away. Let’s understand that we have a good team, with good young players, and now we have to maximise their potential and see where that takes us.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Pickford must continue his good form with England at Everton
“Does Jordan Pickford need to move on from Everton? No, not at all. Everton are a big club and he’s fine where he is. I’m sure they have ambitions to be in the top six, so they will want to keep all their best players. He doesn’t have to leave Everton at all.
“As for taking his England form into the new season, when he goes back there he’s playing with different players than with England. He just has to try to make saves.
“For many players, your club form and your international form can vary because you’re playing with different players, different systems and different styles. Whereas for a goalkeeper, it’s all about keeping shots out. Keeping a shot out for England is the same as keeping a shot out for Everton.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Saul Niguez and Adama Traore would be excellent signings for Liverpool
“Liverpool are being linked with Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid and he would be a really good fit. He’s a box-to-box player, who can also play as a holding midfield player, and that’s the type of players Liverpool want.
“Look at Gini Wijnaldum, who plays as an attacking midfield player for the Netherlands but was more defensive for Liverpool because of the other players the club have.
“So Niguez fits the template of the midfield player who works hard defensively and can get forward and supplement the attack. He’s a player who could fit into what Liverpool want.
“Similarly, Liverpool are being linked with Adama Traore of Wolves and once again, you look at the template for the type of forward Liverpool like. They like fast, strong, attacking players who are very direct.
“Jurgen Klopp looks for players who are suited to what he wants, he doesn’t look at players because they’re popular or because they are the best at their clubs. He looks to see if they can fit into what he wants and Traore is that sort of player.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Harmony at Newcastle would be great for the fans
“There are suggestions that the Newcastle takeover is closer than ever – it would be great to see them as a force in English football again. I played there and I know how passionate the fans are, so for the fans more than anybody else I’d like to see them get some harmony there.
“I’d also be pleased for Steve Bruce because he needs to have some stability and people supporting him. And maybe with the situation with the owner he doesn’t get the support he needs. I’d like to see them on a much more stable footing.”
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