David James on his Fifa ratings over his career, Liverpool's current state, and more
David James is no stranger to football fans, racking up over 572 Premier League appearances, and keeping 169 clean sheets in that time.
David is also an avid gamer, having played PUBG over the years.
We spoke with the former England, Liverpool, Manchester City and Portsmouth goalkeeper on his FIFA ratings over the years, the idea of PUBG 2, and more.
With the release of Hogwarts Legacy, we wanted to ask you if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series?
Am I a fan of Harry Potter? I’ve seen them all and I’ve probably seen them all a couple of times. My kids were into it and that was the main reason why I watched them all. The last Harry Potter film was my favourite because it gave me the story of all of them in one movie, so am I a fan? I’ve watched them all but I’m not a fan.
We have a list of your recorded FIFA ratings over the years. Do you believe they were a fair or unfair reflection for how you were playing at the time?
Ratings: FIFA 05 (88), FIFA 06 (85), FIFA 07 (77), FIFA 08 (81), FIFA 09 (83), FIFA 10 (79), FIFA 11 (79), FIFA 12 (70), FIFA 13 (70)
That would make sense because the 77 rating on FIFA 07 would be a reflection on my final season at Manchester City. In that final season I think we went on a ridiculous run of 10 or 11 games without an away win, so yes, our form wasn’t at its best then.
In the following two seasons at Portsmouth, it was probably the best I’ve played for various reasons. In fact, I know it was the best because I have a friend who was an exceptional analyst who became a recruiter in the Premier League and he told me that I was the highest rated goalkeeper in the league when I was at Portsmouth.
With these FIFA ratings, however, it’s all a bit like when a newspaper rates your performance out of 10. In the latter stages of my career, I never cared about scores and my kids played FIFA regularly and they never said anything about ratings and all that, so I was happy with what I was doing in the real world.
You’ve told us previously how much you enjoyed playing PUBG, so we wanted to ask you whether you’d love to see PUBG 2?
I would. I suppose the issue I have with PUBG compared to Fortnite, and I have to compare it to Fortnite because on Fortnite it’s a fantasy world where there’s no limit to the things you can do and I don’t believe PUBG should go down that route, but PUBG could introduce a number of new environments such as deserts and things like that.
The one thing that annoyed me with the original PUBG was bots and people hacking the platform. I actually stopped playing because I was trying to get on the leaderboard and on the first day of a new season, I checked the scores on the leaderboard and somebody had two million and two million was pretty much impossible to get in a real season, so it was clear that somebody had got into the game and I knew I couldn’t compete against that. It was a waste of time to compete against robots effectively.
If they can eliminate cheats then I think if there was a day when PUBG 2 came out then I’d play.
Do you believe your former manager at Fratton Park, Harry Redknapp, would be a good appointment for Leeds United?
I say this with the greatest fondness, Harry is one of the two best managers I’ve ever worked with and his management skill was quite literally being a manager and not a coach. He wasn’t out on the training pitch putting the cones out and instructing players on what to do. He understands the game fully and I have no doubt that he still understands the game fully now and how it works.
As long as he had a top number two or head coach, Harry would manage the team and when they were putting his name forward for the England job, he would have done an amazing job for them in the finals of a tournament.
His man-management skills are terrific and with Leeds United in a perilous position as a club at the moment, what they need is a manager to come in that can have them believing they can win the Premier League rather than just avoiding relegation and I think Harry is the man that can do that.
Harry would need a number two that’s top drawer and I’m sure with the connections that Harry has, that if he took the job at Leeds, there would be a long queue of capable coaches wanting to work with him.
What are your early impressions of Cody Gakpo at Liverpool? What does he need to do to ensure that he’s a success for the club?
I was with Dirk Kuyt at the weekend and he was talking about Cody and how there is a massive step up from the Eredivisie to the Premier League. Cody was doing so well in the Netherlands and now he’s had to move over midseason to the Premier League and adjust.
Confidence is a massive thing and he didn’t look confident prior to his goal and the main reason for that was his team wasn’t playing consistently well, therefore the pressure was on him to be an immediate success.
Without Thiago, that Liverpool midfield seems set. When you have the youth and bite of Bajčetić, the reassurance of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson more advanced in that midfield, then that allows you to use Cody Gakpo in a different way. Prior to the last two games, because Liverpool has looked vulnerable in midfield, it’s meant that Gakpo has had to play a slightly different role.
To get the best out of Gakpo, you need that midfield to remain solid and allow Cody to use his tremendous skills and capability of getting on the end of crosses. Cody is going to be a dangerous player for Liverpool and to be a success at Liverpool, the key is to be part of a very successful and talented team and not try to be the best player in that side.
18-year-old midfielder Stefan Bajčetić was outstanding in the Merseyside Derby and was named Man of the Match. Any player past or present that his playing style reminds you of?
I’m going to say no. There was a moment in the Merseyside Derby where he cleared the ball with a flying back kick, which was humorous at the time, but the level of skill was top-drawer. He gets stuck in like Steven Gerrard or James Milner, but he has his own unique style.
He’s very skillful, which is something we’ve all seen, and there’s been a couple of games where he’s shown his youth, but that’s due to the fact that when the side you’re playing in isn’t full of confidence, then you’re going to look exposed at times. When it’s a young player though, that becomes even more heightened simply because you’re less familiar with them.
Bajčetić has his own style and I don’t think he should want to be ‘the new’ anything. He’s 18 years old and he still has a long way to go in the game, but what I like about him is his unique style of play. Be the best Bajčetić you can be.
What have you made of the recent form of Darwin Núñez? He was excellent in the Merseyside Derby last Monday and was very effective on the left-hand side of Liverpool’s attack. Do you expect that to be his position for the foreseeable or do you believe when the goals start to flow he will occupy the number nine role?
I’m a fan of him not being in any certain position. Football is so well analysed now and many of the world’s best footballers are playing in the Premier League at this moment in time, so if you’re a footballer who only occupies one position then you’re easier to deal with.
When you have the qualities that Darwin Núñez possesses, then he should be able to float around anywhere and make himself more difficult to mark. Liverpool have Cody Gakpo who’s also capable of doing a similar thing.
Mohamed Salah is more unique in a sense, as he spends most of his time out on the right, but even Mo is capable of interchanging with others in Liverpool’s frontline. You have a front three that’s hard to mark, hard to stop and in form, so obviously, Liverpool have many goalscoring capabilities. I would like to think that they could just be a front three that attacks as opposed to a front three where you have one on the left, one on the right and one down the middle.
According to the Telegraph, a number of Chelsea’s staff are said to have ‘resigned to losing’ Mason Mount in the summer. There’s interest supposedly from Liverpool, but can you seriously see him making the move to Anfield? Is he a player that you’d love to see at Liverpool?
I’m a big fan of Mason Mount. If you’re Mason Mount or Ruben Loftus-Cheek, prior to the transfer window at Chelsea, then you’d be questioning your longevity at the club, due to the number of signings that the club has made.
It’s nothing to do with Graham Potter. I did my pro license with him and he’s a fantastic manager and a fantastic person, but I just believe that there’s a lot of players that have come in for a lot of money and then there will be players at the club who were there before the transfer window, who would have believed they’d be at Chelsea for the rest of their career, like Mason Mount, but will now be starting to question whether that’s the case.
If Liverpool are interested in him, then the prospect of Mason Mount and Jude Bellingham in Liverpool’s midfield would be something special I think.
German publication Sport Bild has claimed that they expect Liverpool to make a move for Frankfurt forward Randall Kolo Muani. He has 15 goals and 14 assists this season for Frankfurt in all competitions and scored for France in their 2-0 World Cup semi-final victory against Morocco. He’s drawn comparisons to Thierry Henry and is also said to be on the radar of Manchester United, PSG and Real Madrid.
In your opinion, does a forward with his creativity, as well as dribbling and finishing ability, match the profile of forward that Liverpool should be targeting, or are there enough forwards at the club already?
I had a conversation recently with Dirk Kuyt regarding how there’s a perception that the only way for a team to improve is by buying players. [Darwin] Núñez and [Cody] Gakpo have come in, Mo Salah has signed a new deal and Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are back from injury. I would argue that Liverpool have enough forwards at the club already. You can get in a position where you can have too many talented, expensive forwards, where it doesn’t bode well for actual success on the pitch.
Liverpool’s success in the past was not going out and being the biggest spenders, it was about getting players that people were surprised by as opposed to expecting, with those surprises turning out into top-drawer players. Liverpool’s success has been about recruiting lesser-known players and turning them into superstars and they should follow that model. If everybody knows about a certain player, then I don’t believe that would work for Liverpool
The bookmakers and media are suggesting that Declan Rice’s next club is most likely Arsenal. Why do you believe Declan would opt to go there instead of any other Premier League club that wants his signature?
Declan is hot property and will be wanted by any English side who qualify for Europe this season because he’s a top-drawer player. If there was a persuasion for him to go to Arsenal, and speaking from my own experiences before I joined Liverpool, when I couldn’t consider leaving the London area, is that when you’re born and grow up in an area, then sometimes you feel like that’s the only place that you need to be. I’d love him to stay at West Ham ultimately and I hope they can get out of the relegation battle they’re in at the moment.
Some people just like staying in their area and therefore, why not Arsenal? Under Mikel Arteta they’ve gotten themselves in a position where they can end up being Premier League champions and if you’re going to join the best team in the country at that time, then that also makes sense for Declan.
Wolves captain Rúben Neves is reportedly wanted by Premier League trio Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle United. It’s clear to all that Liverpool are desperate to land a marquee signing in central midfield this summer, but do you believe Neves is good enough to start for Liverpool or would their money be better off spent elsewhere?
Until Liverpool signs that midfielder they crave this summer, then there’s always others who are going to be linked in the meantime. Jude Bellingham seems to be their favoured option in that position, so that alleviates the pressure of having to get someone like Neves. If Mason Mount was to join Liverpool, then that further alleviates the requirement of Neves.
Liverpool have had success with picking players that a lot of people are unaware of. If a move for Jude Bellingham doesn’t happen then I’m sure Liverpool would have someone up their sleeve, somebody that all of us were not focusing on. The idea that Liverpool would go for two or three big, big names to keep their fans happy is something that goes against the club’s model. One big name signing is a possibility, but two or three is improbable.
Do you believe Graham Potter will be sacked as Chelsea manager?
The logic is that Graham Potter would have gone into Chelsea knowing how the club planned to go forward. I don’t think for one minute that he would have gone in there with the belief that they were going to sign players for two or three seasons, and then all of a sudden they would then turn into eight-year contracts.
Therefore, I believe Chelsea would have got Graham Potter in with the plan of doing something over a longer period of time and there would have had to be some level of protection in there, whatever that protection is, that he wasn’t going to be sacked if things went wrong.
I don't think there's a case for him to be sacked if there’s a long-term plan. I’ve been in the position myself where I’ve recruited a new team essentially, with a three-year plan, then after six months that gets torn up and I lose my position.
If the owners are loyal and this is all part of the plan, then Graham will be fine. I don’t want to see him sacked because he’s a bright English manager and a really good person. The problem that the rest of the Premier League will face is when Graham eventually gets it right, with the quality of players that he’s got, then they’re going to be capable of causing everybody problems.
There will be a few clubs in competition with Chelsea that would rather he wasn’t there in six months time if Chelsea are winning every game.