‘A Sit Down With John Barnes’ – 17 February 2022

Ahead of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. Liverpool’s ex-midfield ace discussed his thoughts on Fabinho being the best central defensive midfielder in the league, Paul Pogba’s position at Manchester United and Eddie Howe’s impact at Newcastle. 

John Barnes exclusive: Luis Díaz can develop massively under Jürgen Klopp

“Luis Díaz can develop greatly at Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp’s guidance in the same way that Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino have. 

“They were already good players when they came to the club, but Klopp has pushed them to the next level, in terms of being some of the top players in Europe. For Luis Días, Jürgen can do exactly the same.

“Right now, Díaz isn’t ahead of Diogo Jota, Firmino or Mané, but you have to look at each of their ages. He’s a player for the future and the others are all approaching 30 years old, and nobody knows if Salah or Mané will leave the club, or even Firmino. 

“Liverpool now have a quality player who, aside from Jota, will be there if the others were to leave.”

john barnes

John Barnes exclusive: If Salah left Liverpool tomorrow, Luis Díaz can replace him

“Nobody can tell when Luis Díaz might find himself starting for this Liverpool side, because you never know what could happen with Mohamed Salah [if he were to leave]. It could be next season; it could be two. But Luis Díaz certainly has the quality to get into this Liverpool side tomorrow, if necessary.

“Liverpool will make sure that when he does [get into that starting eleven], that he’s ready and able to cope.”

John Barnes exclusive: Fabinho is the best central defensive midfielder in the Premier League

“When discussing Fabinho being the Premier League’s best midfielder, you have to decide what you mean by the term ‘centre midfielder’. Kevin De Bruyne is considered a centre midfielder, but Fabinho is a defensive midfielder – a true number six.

“In terms of holding midfielder’s, Fabinho is the best in this Premier League. And it’s all down to the way Liverpool play. 

“When Fabinho first came to the club, he took a while to understand what Jürgen Klopp wanted out of him. 

“If he’d gone to another club, he probably wouldn’t be the same player. He suits the way Liverpool play, and Liverpool suits him.”

John Barnes exclusive: Jarrod Bowen could easily play for one of the top four

“Jarrod Bowen is playing for a team [West Ham] that are in the top four or five in the Premier League, so he’s playing at the very top – as of right now. 

“He needs time to develop; he’s in his first real season playing for a better side. 

“Bowen’s never going to sign for Liverpool and replace Mohamed Salah. He is a different type of player to Mo, he isn’t going to score 30 goals a season, that’s not what Jarrod Bowen does. 

“In terms of his talent, can he play at big top five club? Absolutely.”

John Barnes exclusive: It’s easy to see Manchester United select other midfielders over Paul Pogba, but he’s a fantastic player

“Paul Pogba isn’t making Manchester United’s team unbalanced when he plays. 

“The team has been unbalanced even when Pogba hasn’t been playing, and that obviously isn’t Paul Pogba’s fault. 

“However, it’s easy to see why managers would look to start Manchester United’s other players like Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo, and then think we only need to play two defensive midfielders [Fred and Scott McTominay]. As a result, Paul Pogba ends up not playing.

“It’s not a question of Pogba making United’s team unbalanced, he’s a fantastic player.”

John Barnes exclusive: Manchester United shouldn’t build their team around one player

“Cristiano Ronaldo is 37 years old; Manchester United aren’t going to be building around him. 

“United also shouldn’t look to build around any one specific player anyway. They should build around an entire team. That’s what Manchester City and Liverpool have done. Look at the number of changes both teams make. 

“If you are a big club, you don’t build around one individual. If you’re a mediocre club with a great player that’s when you’d look to do so.

“In regard to Harry Kane and Manchester United potentially building around him, the rumours were first that he was going to Manchester City, and now United instead. We can’t pay attention to them. There’s always speculation. The only thing that should be on Harry Kane’s mind is scoring goals for Tottenham, rather than thinking about a move elsewhere.”

John Barnes exclusive: Eddie Howe’s impact at Newcastle can only be judged at the end of the season

“Following their recent form, Newcastle can stay up. They made some good signings in January, and I always felt that they would be able to stay up and win enough matches once they got the momentum.

 “Eddie Howe is doing a decent job, but they can’t get carried away. They are still in a relegation dogfight. 

“Newcastle cannot begin getting ahead of themselves and looking to win the league in two years’ time. 

 “What they must do is stay up, and if Howe keeps them up, then he has done a great job.”


John Barnes exclusive: Kieran Trippier’s absence won’t be detrimental to Newcastle

“Newcastle haven’t made any marquee signings in January. They made some good signings to simply come in and help them stay up.

“Kieran Trippier is a good player, but Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, they are true marquee signings.

 “It’s unfortunate that Trippier is now injured, but they are still playing with momentum and confidence, and they signed other good players as well. 

“The fact that he’s now missing won’t hamper them in terms of not winning matches and then possibly going down.

 “Fans are getting carried away with calling Trippier a marquee signing. He’s a good character who will score the odd goal and organise the defence.

 “Trippier’s absence won’t be too detrimental, but obviously, they would much rather have him.”

John Barnes exclusive: Tottenham can still finish in the Premier League top four

“When people talk about the top four for Tottenham, they are referring to fourth place. Tottenham are not good enough to finish first, second or third.

“West Ham, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal are all fighting for that fourth spot. Tottenham have enough to challenge because nobody is playing consistently well enough to definitively say that ‘we’re going to be fourth’.

“West Ham are probably the most consistent of the sides, but they are also the least favoured.

“Antonio Conte understands that Tottenham have their problems, and that whilst they’ve been disappointing in the last two games, they still have enough [to challenge].”

John Barnes exclusive: Tottenham were right not to spend big in January, they have one of the Premier League’s best squads

“If Tottenham miss out on the top four, it will be because of the inconsistency; they have good players.

 “Look at the squad they have, it is better than West Ham’s. They probably have one of the best squads in the Premier League.

 “January is not a time to sign players, because the top players that Tottenham want are the ones who will help them to fight for the title, not just finish in the top four.

 “Antonio Conte has to change the mentality, the attitude, and work with what he has because they still have good enough players. Conte understands that. Come the end of the season, he then knows that’s the best time to go and spend a lot of money to get the best players.”

John Barnes Exclusive: There is no clear favourite for the SPFL title with Celtic and Rangers neck and neck

“Celtic are playing consistently well, but it will be a fight with Rangers all the way to the end. Celtic are going to be closer this year than they were last year, and maybe Rangers have dipped because they have won the league so many times.

 “Neither side can be made the favourite. It’s neck and neck right now, but Celtic definitely can win the title.”


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