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Glen Johnson On Footballers Twitch Streaming, Nunez To Liverpool Verdict, And More

Glen Johnson On Footballers Twitch Streaming, Nunez To Liverpool Verdict, And More
Image via Shutterstock

Written by 

Jake Bannister

Posted 

28th Jun 2022 09:00

Former Liverpool and England international Glen Johnson spoke to GGRecon, where he discussed footballers streaming on Twitch, Darwin Nunez's transfer to Liverpool, and more.

A 2019 BBC study found that more and more kids that are growing up these days want to become YouTubers and streamers. Do you think this is a sign of the times with social media being so impactful from a young age, or do you still believe that most of them would prefer to grow up to be footballers?

I think it's definitely going more towards the gaming and streaming element. I think the way that everything has evolved, and the technology these days, everything is so good it's hard for kids not to be addicted to it. Even as parents, you'll try to get them off the computer and get them to do something tangible, but then all of a sudden, when you start seeing people making money from playing computer games, it's hard to tell them not to play.

Similarly, with the likes of Dele Alli, Sergio Agüero, Mesut Özil, and many others promoting esports to their audience, do you think it's having an impact on the younger audience when it comes to picking their career? Do you think kids getting involved in gaming from an early age is positive?

We will only know if it's positive in five years' time. It's certainly at the top of most kids' minds. Whether it's Instagram, WhatsApp, or browsing on their computer, they seem to be addicted to technology. We all know that your phone and your notifications are designed to keep you on it. We all have the problem, you tell your daughter to not go on her phone, and she's the only one not on it, you kind of have to roll with the punches.

We've seen various professional footballers take to Twitch to stream themselves playing games. Many of them engage with their chat on the website and take it as a moment to speak to fans. Can you see this newer generation of footballers taking to gaming platforms to engage with fans and maybe even using it to grow their profile?

Yes, definitely. With access that fans these days have to athletes, the players are trying to commercialise themselves even more. It's almost like the club is secondary, which sounds absolutely mad, but in a way, all the players are their own individual brands. If you're a fan, you can select which players you want to follow instead of following a football club, so you can see why the interaction is there.

We're currently in the age where universities offer esports degrees alongside regular sports degrees. Can you imagine the younger generation opting for a degree in esports instead of physical education?

I'd have to say it's negative. I can definitely see kids wanting to do it, but physical activity is good for your body and brain. It's good for everything. As long as the kids don't get too skewed one way, as long as they're doing both, then it can be positive. If someone is sitting in their bedroom playing on their computer for 14 hours a day, then it's of course unhealthy for them, but if they're physically active then you can balance it well.

 

Let's move on to football. We're speaking to you right in the middle of the summer transfer window and one of the biggest stories is that Darwin Núñez is now officially a Liverpool player. Firstly, do you believe it's the perfect response to Manchester City's signing of Erling Haaland? Is Núñez capable of filling the void left by Sadio Mané?

They're big shoes to fill, aren't they? But Liverpool seems to get it right every time. So I wouldn't be surprised to see him hit the ground running. The way they do their recruitment is special. Let's face it, a year ago most of us wouldn't have known who Núñez was, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Everyone is talking about Erling Haaland, but it wouldn't surprise me if this guy is just as effective.

They say Darwin Núñez passed the audition when he scored home and away against Liverpool in the Champions League. Who do you think will have the better season out of the two summer signings: Erling Haaland at City or Darwin Núñez at Liverpool?

Oh wow, that's a tough question. Right now I'd have to say Haaland, just because I know more about him. With Manchester City, he's going to get about six goal-scoring opportunities every game. If you give him six chances he's going to score a few. I'd say Haaland for now.

It's been speculated that Liverpool will not make another addition this summer. They've already signed three players, but they've lost the likes of Sadio Mané, Divock Origi, and Takumi Minamino. Do Liverpool need to make any more additions this summer to enable them to fight on all fronts? Would you say they've strengthened this summer?

I personally would like to see them sign one or two more players. As I've said previously, I like the way they do their business. They don't just go and buy anyone. They have their targets and they get their man, all the time. They don't get into wars with people, they don't overbid, they get their man and they do it correctly. So I'm sure they know what they're doing but I would like to see them sign one or two more players.

According to the papers, in 2023 Liverpool will target a marquee central-midfield signing. If you were the decision maker, who would you be going for?

Right now I'd go for Declan Rice. In a couple of year's time, Jordan Henderson could do what Sadio Mané has done and leave, I think that Declan would fit that role perfectly.

One central midfielder Liverpool has been linked with this week is Inter Milan's Nicolò Barella. He was a member of Italy's Euro 2020 winning squad and had 17 goal involvements in 48 games for his club this season. Do you think he'd be a good addition to this Liverpool team?

I do think he would be a good addition. To score goals and grab assists isn't easy, despite the fact he hasn't done it in the Premier League. When somebody's technically very good and can either score or assist a goal regularly, then you don't expect them to struggle. The more players on the pitch that can help contribute towards a goal is good for the squad.

Rumours are suggesting that Liverpool may be interested in a loan move for former midfielder Gini Wijnaldum. Now whether there's any truth in this rumour or not, surely Wijnaldum has burnt his bridges at Liverpool considering the whole contract fiasco before he departed last summer?

Everyone needs to be careful what they wish for. He's clearly not been firing on all cylinders like he was for Liverpool. They wouldn't be getting the same player back if they made a move for him. You don't go back to a lit firework.

Marcos Asensio this month has been linked with moves to Premier League sides Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. He's entering the final year of his contract at Real Madrid. Do you believe he'd suit the Premier League? Do you think he's good enough to play for Liverpool?

It sounds mad, but to play for Real Madrid is the position he's in is kind of easy, in the sense that you've got the best players in the world around you. I'm not so sure if he's good enough for Liverpool. I like what I see of him at times, but honestly, I don't think he does it enough. I don't think he'll be on Liverpool's list of targets and I believe the Premier League would be too fast for him.

Now onto the weekend's big transfer gossip. Cristiano Ronaldo is now being linked with a sensational move to Chelsea after growing concerned about Manchester United's summer transfer activity. Firstly, if he's going to cost a lot of money, would you want Chelsea to pursue him? And if he was to go, how damaging would it be to Ronaldo's reputation amongst Manchester United fans?

If he goes to Chelsea then he'd burn his bridges at Manchester United. From Chelsea's perspective, he's a massive brand and he may be expensive, but you'd probably make that money back in two weeks through shirt sales. He may cost a fortune but the club would probably make more by just having him. Signing Ronaldo is like signing a commercial deal.

I don't think Ronaldo can change Chelsea's fortunes as a player now, but I think having him in the dressing room would. On the pitch now, he's not the Ronaldo we all want to see, but him being in the dressing room will get another 5% out of everyone around him.

New Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has cleared out a number of the Roman Abramovich hierarchy, most notably chairman Bruce Buck, director Marina Granovskaia, technical and performance advisor Petr Čech, and chief executive Guy Laurence. Now considering Boehly's never been in football before, he's now made himself Chairman and interim sporting director. As a fan, are you worried that many of the people who've contributed to the club's success have departed? In particular, Granovskaia, who was dubbed by The Times as 'the most powerful woman in football', gained huge credit for the work she had previously done in securing some big transfers for the club.

I'm concerned by how quick the changes have been made. Those decisions must have been made before he joined the club. I'd have liked them to have shown more patience in the staff already at the club. Todd Boehly is clearly very intelligent and successful at what he does, but running a football club is different. If I was the owner, I'd get my feet under the table, pay attention, let a few of the existing staff stay and slowly get rid of the people I don't want. I wouldn't walk in and fire five or six people. It's a big call but I'm sure they know what they're doing.

Outgoing Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards, the man behind the signings of Virgil van Dijk, Mo Salah, Andy Robertson, and Sadio Mané to name but a few, is being linked with taking up the current vacancy at Chelsea. From a business perspective, just how clever an appointment would that be by your former club?

It would be a massive appointment. He was doing the same thing for Portsmouth when I was there. The team we had were basically all his signings and we went from a team that was fighting relegation to a team that won the FA Cup. Michael's very good at what he does and he would be a fantastic appointment by Chelsea and possibly the most important signing they can make this summer.

Romelu Lukaku will return to Inter Milan on a season-long loan. In your opinion, where does he rank for you amongst both Chelsea and the Premier League worst ever signings?

I don't like to be negative, but it's been a bad signing and I'm sure he'd admit that himself. He's a good player, but I just believe that the Premier League is too technical and too fast for him. He will probably go to Inter Milan and bang in 25 goals, but it's a different league. It is sadly up there amongst the worst Premier League signings and that's mostly due to the amount of money he's cost. If they signed him for £20 million then he wouldn't even come into the debate would he? However, he cost £100 million and couldn't finish his dinner.

Some players are just suited to certain leagues. Technical footballers can play in multiple positions and that's because they're intelligent footballers. Lukaku isn't an intelligent footballer and is only good at one thing. That's not good enough for Chelsea and the Premier League.

With Lukaku gone, who would you like to see come in to replace the Belgian striker, or is there someone already at the club that you'd trust to do the job?

I think Chelsea are going to be reluctant to spend scary money again considering what happened with the Romelu Lukaku signing. If it was up to me, then I'd give Armando Broja a chance rather than spending £80 million on a replacement. I'd rather get it wrong with a player that I've already got, rather than get it wrong by spending £80 million.

Broja is technically good in front of goal, but I don't know how good he is yet. He did score some fantastic goals for Southampton but, let's face it, Southampton aren't Chelsea. He's going to get more goal scoring opportunities at Chelsea and he's technically good enough to score more next season.

Chelsea are still said to be interested in signing Everton forward Richarlison but he's also linked with a move to Tottenham. Which club do you believe needs him most? Or do you think he's good enough to play for either?

He's not a goal machine is he? I think he's a good player and, from what I hear, he's a good lad. He's a hothead as well - he's never far away from a red card! And that's why he's good - it is what it is.

If you're going to go anywhere, you're not going to Tottenham. If he could do anything, I think he'd go to Chelsea. I think he would be a really good squad player. I don't think he'd be the main man, first name on the list every single week, but I reckon he could put in a certain amount of performances for them, for sure.

Raheem Sterling is predicted to join Chelsea this summer. Is this a signing that will propel them closer towards Manchester City and Liverpool? Do you believe it's a great move for Raheem himself?

I think he'd love it. You know, going back home to London, he'll be closer to his family. He's still a fantastic player, for sure.

Like I have said, when these players become available, you have to go for them. I don't think he's the sort of player Chelsea need right now - they've got Pulisic, Werner, whoever - but if they're going to do some clever business and get rid of one of them, then, yes, I think it's a great signing. He's still got loads to offer, he's a good lad, a fantastic player, and as long as he enjoys himself then they're signing a fantastic player.

If you were in control of the club's finances, then which centre-back would you bring to the club to replace those that have left?

It's hard. I know it's going to sound a bit out there but I would say Toby Alderweireld, who used to be at Tottenham. He's not going to cost much, he knows the Premier League, he's a good footballer, and I think in a proper team he could surprise a lot of people. Other than that, I think it's actually quite weak. If you had a gun to your head and someone said 'Outside of the obvious, who are the best three centre-backs in the world?' I think it would be very difficult.

Chelsea have already lost two centre-backs this summer and they're linked with a move for their former defender Nathan Aké. Do you think Aké's an adequate replacement for either Antonio Rüdiger or Andreas Christensen? Or do you believe the club's fans will feel a bit underwhelmed if he came in to replace Rüdiger in particular?

Yes. Definitely. No disrespect to Aké but I think most people were surprised when he went to Manchester City, certainly for that amount of money. Put it this way, he didn't blow my mind when he was at Bournemouth. He's just 'OK'. Then we saw the amount of money for him to go to City and it was like 'Jesus, where have they seen that?!' I don't think he's a suitable replacement for Rüdiger at all.

Sky Italia are claiming that Chelsea are interested in activating Matthijs de Ligt's release clause of £103 million. Things haven't gone swimmingly for him at Juventus, but he is still 22 years of age and has experience at the highest level. Do you believe de Ligt's worthy of a world record fee for a defender and do you think he'd be a good signing for Chelsea? Timo Werner is rumoured to be going in the opposite direction. Would that be a good move for both players involved?

I think it would be a good move for all parties involved. The whole package. Let's face it, £100m is becoming the norm, which sounds bonkers. But it is becoming normal and if you've got a guy there who you can potentially sell in five years' time for, probably, £120m, then all of a sudden it doesn't sound daft. Although if it's a 'Lukaku job' then you're going to sell him for half!

I do think, due to his age, Matthijs de Ligt would be a risk worth taking.

PSG are supposedly considering the sale of Neymar. In the past he's been linked with a move to Chelsea. Should the Blues move for the most expensive footballer in history? Can he still be a gamechanger?

He's one of the best players in the world and a huge brand. I don't know what the deal would cost but I guess if Neymar's available then you have to look at it seriously. If he's good enough to help Chelsea then yes. I think he's got loads to give. As long as he can gel in the Premier League, then I think he'd be a massive brand and be one of the most iconic signings of all time.

West Ham have made a £30 million bid for Chelsea's Armando Broja, who impressed on loan at Southampton next season and is very highly regarded. With Chelsea purportedly looking for a Lukaku replacement, if Broja does move, could Chelsea regret selling him down the line? And from a West Ham perspective, is Broja exactly what their side needs?

He's definitely what they need in terms of a goalscorer. Michail Antonio does what he does but he's not a technically good footballer and in front of goal he's not a finisher at all. He's a workhorse and he'll rally from the front, which is great. But Broja's got that bit of class. If West Ham can sign him, then absolutely they should sign him. You'd jump at the chance. But if you're the player, I think you've got to try and fight for your cause in a Champions League side if you've got the opportunity.

Most strikers would bite your arm off to have a chance at Chelsea. So to give it up straight away, I think Broja should fight his corner at Chelsea first, and then if it doesn't go to plan then he'll always have the West Hams and Evertons and Tottenhams.

Gareth Southgate has come under a lot of criticism after England's performances in the Nations League. How harsh do you believe the criticism is? Do those England fans condemning him have short memories? And will the Nations League performances have any impact on their preparation for the 2022 World Cup, which begins late November?

In terms of the memory of fans then they are very, very short. To be honest, I didn't watch any of their games. I didn't watch any of them.

The lads have had a massive season. Obviously all the players that play for England play for proper football clubs so they're all going deep in the Champions League, deep in the FA Cup, deep in terms of the length of the Premier League, and then they're playing friendlies - let's face it, they are friendlies - right in the middle of summer, when they could be chilling out and preparing themselves for the World Cup. The lads are just tired. I don't really care about those results to be honest. And I think the lads feel exactly what I just said, because of the performances. They're probably thinking 'why the hell are we doing this?'.

Christian Eriksen's future is still up in the air. Manchester United have reportedly offered him a new deal, but the option to stay at Brentford is still there too, but if you were Eriksen, where would you be going? Bear in mind that the World Cup is just around the corner.

There are different questions. I think it's all about Eriksen, how he feels, what he wants to do in life now. He just needs to be happy. Does he need the pressure of Manchester United? I'm not so sure.

Let's just say Eriksen's 100% fit and well: I think he would go to Manchester United because he'd have the energy to put up with the pressure. It's a fantastic football club and you're going to play with some world class players. As long as he's strong enough to do it, then I think he'd pick that. The only question is is where his head's at and what he wants out of it.

In terms of being a player, he's one of the best midfielders the Premier League has ever seen. But if any of us had been through what he has been through, if that's me then I'm thinking 'sod it, I'm just going to enjoy the rest of my life and chill out.'

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