After a week which saw Liverpool comfortably through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, we spoke with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool midfielder shared his thoughts on Liverpool’s chances of winning the Champions League, how Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland would fare in the Premier League, and why Celtic should wait until the summer to bring in a new manager.
John Barnes Exclusive: It was great to see Fabinho playing in midfield, but we won’t see it every game
“It was great to see Fabinho back playing in midfield against RB Leipzig and likewise with watching Nat Phillips perform so well. But these young defenders aren’t necessarily going to stop Bayern Munich in the semi-final of the Champions League or when you play the likes of Manchester City in the Premier League.
It’s a tough decision for Jurgen Klopp to decide to play Nat Phillips every week and have Fabinho in midfield. In certain matches, Fabinho will be needed to play in defence and in other games, he will need to play in midfield, controlling the game from the middle.
Jurgen Klopp won’t be able to fully trust the young centre backs in every game, because he’ll need his experienced players in the bigger matches, so the manager will have to decide on a game-by-game basis.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Trent Alexander-Arnold is easily my first choice right back for England
“Trent Alexander-Arnold should start as the right back for England in the upcoming internationals. He hasn’t become a bad player overnight, he’s performing at this level because of the injuries Liverpool have had this season. He’s suffering at Liverpool, and everyone else is too due to the nature of the squad.
The players that Trent [Alexander-Arnold] will play with for England are the same players he’s played with for England all season. It doesn’t have any difference on his current form for Liverpool. His form for Liverpool and his form for England are separate, so for me, he would be my starting right back for England.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Unlikely Liverpool will win the Champions League with their injuries
“Liverpool didn’t win the Champions League last season and we had Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez playing, so you can’t say we won’t win the competition just because the state of our squad. It’s such an amazing competition to be in and is something where anything can happen at any stage. We’re into the quarterfinals which means we’ve got a great chance of going through to the semi-final and then onto the final, anything can happen.
Of course, it will get harder because you’ll be facing much better opposition, however, in a one-off situation, there’s always a chance for Liverpool to win it again.
But, if you ask me whether I think we will win the tournament with the injuries we’ve got, then I’d say probably not. “
John Barnes Exclusive: There’s no reason for Liverpool’s recent home form, something will change soon
“I don’t believe in hoodoos at all. People always look for reasons as to why something is going wrong so people will naturally blame not having fans in the stadium for Liverpool’s recent bad form at home. At the end of the day, every stadium is currently the same, as it has the same grass, same empty seats and no atmosphere, so sometimes there isn’t a reason for a bad run of form.
You can analyse it all you want (Liverpool’s home record), but it is one of those situations where it is how it is.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Georginio Wijnaldum wants a four-year contract, but Liverpool won’t offer him that because of his age
“Georginio Wijnaldum isn’t disagreeing with the club over money with his new contract, he’s looking for a longer-term deal. He’s now 30 years old so is thinking for himself and his family long-term. The contract disagreement isn’t anything personal between him and the club, it’s a player who is trying to look after his career and Liverpool will appreciate that, but if they aren’t willing to offer him a three or four-year deal, maybe another club in Europe will.
“When a player gets into his 30s, the club must think that he’s just above his prime, or in his prime but is about to leave his prime. If he demands a contract of a certain number of years, it means a club is paying a player a lot of money to not play that, when they could be spending their money on a 25-year-old, who may deserve that money.
“Liverpool might want him to stay, and he wants to stay at Liverpool, but the club must think about the future of the players and can’t offer a 30-year-old a four-year contract.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Jurgen Klopp will win another Premier League with Liverpool
“If Jurgen Klopp stays at Liverpool long-term, then I’m sure he’ll win another Premier League title with Liverpool. If he’s still there next season, he will definitely be challenging with Manchester City. His contract runs until 2024, so we still have three more years of Klopp in the Premier League for him to have the chance of winning another Premier League title for Liverpool.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Jurgen Klopp will not leave Liverpool this summer, not under these circumstances
“Liverpool fans won’t be worried about rumours of Jurgen Klopp going for the Germany job in the summer after the Euros. The manager has already said he has no interest in it, so we must take his word for it. Maybe it will happen at the end of his contract or maybe at the end of next season, but what’s for sure is Klopp will not want to leave Liverpool under these circumstances.
“Even if next season and the team puts up a better challenge and don’t win anything, he will feel that now’s the time for him go do, but I don’t think that he feels that as things aren’t going well, he has to leave the club now. The manager will feel like he has unfinished business, even if he wanted to leave because you wouldn’t want to leave under these circumstances.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Kylian Mbappé would suit Liverpool perfectly, likewise with Erling Haaland at Manchester City
“When it comes to looking at players coming to the Premier League, I don’t look at it like that, I look at players being suited to particular clubs in the Premier League. Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland would suit coming to the Premier League, but only if they joined Manchester City or Liverpool.
From Erling Haaland’s perspective, with the creativity that Manchester City have and their need for a number nine who is strong in the air, good in front of goal and can hold the ball up well, he’d suit them well. Haaland’s general build-up play isn’t that great, but it’s when he gets in and around the box, when he comes alive. He doesn’t get involved in the build-up play if he played for Manchester Citym as they have more than enough players who can do that. Manchester City can play really well and score five goals against teams, but when a game is tight, they lack that presence in the box that will give them that edge.
Kylian Mbappé would suit Liverpool quite nicely. He loves to run with the ball from either wide or central positions, across the length of the pitch, which is what Liverpool do. Whereas Manchester City a much slower play to get higher up the field whereas Liverpool break quickly.”
John Barnes Exclusive: We will never see a Messi and Ronaldo rivalry in football ever again
“When people compare Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé, it doesn’t make much sense to me. Messi and Ronaldo would take games by the scruff of their neck and win games for their team, Haaland doesn’t do that. Haaland needs players around him to be creative so he can score goals, in some instances, he’d hardly touch the ball but still score. We won’t see two players in football like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi ever again.
Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland can be the best two in the world, but in terms of being head and shoulders above everyone else, we won’t see that again.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Christian Pulisic would suit any team in the Premier League if he was to leave Chelsea in the summer
“Christian Pulisic would suit any team he’d join if he was to leave Chelsea this summer. He’s played really well for Chelsea, then got injured and struggled to get back into the team for many reasons. Then came the emergence of Mason Mount which has pushed him down further because they play in similar roles, so understandably, the manager won’t play both of them. He’s a fantastic player and he’d suit any team in the Premier League, if he was to stay in England.
Every time he comes onto the pitch, he has a good attitude and plays well which he needs to continue doing and at some point, he will get his chance.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Rangers fans celebrating in the streets of Glasgow was wrong, but I empathise with them
“Rangers haven’t won the league title for 10 years and whilst we don’t want to see those types of celebrations happening in the streets of Glasgow given the current climate, I empathise with the fans after the long wait for the title.
We all know it’s wrong and even Steven Gerrard said it was wrong for the fans to be celebrating like that, but there’s an understanding of why they did it and that’s due to the 10-year wait for the trophy and the fans being relieved that it’s happened after such a long time.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Celtic must see out this season and then bring a new manager in
“Celtic need to get this season over and done with as soon as possible. They wouldn’t want a new manager to come in now, in a negative environment, with the current form of the team. You’d want a new manager to come in after the season is over so he can start fresh with his players, with the previous season forgotten, to start with a new slate, without any negativity whatsoever.
The club will want the new manager, whoever he is, to stop all negativity and to start his new regime with positive feelings in the summer. He needs to be given a clean slate, whereby he has a good pre-season, he can work with his players for a while before the season starts, and completely forget about the season previously.”
John Barnes Exclusive: If Frank Lampard could get the same backing as Gerrard at Rangers, he’d be a perfect fit for Celtic
“Frank Lampard would be a great fit at Celtic, if they were to give the same support that Steven Gerrard has had at Rangers. If Celtic were able to give Frank what he wants, then it would be perfect. However, he doesn’t have a relationship with Celtic, he doesn’t have a lot of managerial experience, so Celtic may look to someone with more experience who they’d be more willing to give them time and money to do what he wants. As much as it could be a good fit for both Celtic and Frank Lampard, it depends on how the club see their next few years and the backing from the board.”
John Barnes Exclusive: After Klopp leaves Liverpool in 2024, Steven Gerrard would be my first choice
“By the time Jurgen Klopp’s contract runs out at Liverpool in 2024, Steven Gerrard would be ready to make that step up to manage Liverpool. If Steven continues what he’s doing by making sure Rangers compete all the way with Celtic for the title or can even win another title with Rangers, then in 2024, when it’s time for Klopp to leave, Gerrard would have had sufficient experience to take on a big club like Liverpool. However, if it comes to 2024 and Rangers have been finishing third and not competing with Celtic, then you’d have to question that.
If it comes to 2024 and Steven has continued doing extremely well at Rangers, then he’d be my next choice as Liverpool manager after Jurgen Klopp leaves.”
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