Glen Johnson on FIFA, Liverpool's top 4 chances & Sadio Mané transfer
Glen Johnson began his career at West Ham United, before moving to Chelsea, Portsmouth, Liverpool, and Stoke City, racking up more than three hundred appearances across Premier League clubs.
Earning more than 50 caps for the England team, too, we sat down with Johnson to talk FIFA ratings, this season's race for the top 4, and a look into what's going on at one of his former clubs, Chelsea.
In your playing days, did you ever used to check your rating when the new FIFA came out?
No I didn’t, but every now and then there’d be banter in the dressing room about it. There were certainly a few players that would keep their eye out for their ratings and some players would even complain to have their ratings enhanced. Some players took it more seriously than others.
For me, it has to be Erling Haaland. All the Ultimate Team players are going to want the best goalscorers in their team and I believe Erling will be the hottest property in my opinion.
Onto football, do you believe there’s still a chance that Liverpool can finish in the top four of the Premier League?
It’s going to be tough for them. They’re starting to put together a proper run, but they’re nine points behind Newcastle United and seven behind Manchester United with five games to go. They’re now reliant on other teams slipping up, but there’s still a chance they can finish in the top four now as they’ve found a bit of form.
Liverpool legend Sadio Mané’s future at Bayern Munich is up in the air after a disciplinary issue involving himself and his teammate Leroy Sané. Chelsea have been linked with bringing Mané back to the Premier League, but in your opinion, do you believe he would ever go to Stamford Bridge and do you believe Liverpool should attempt to bring him back to Anfield?
I think Chelsea would definitely want to sign him. Most clubs would. In regards to him going back to Liverpool, then when you’ve left a club on such a high, it usually doesn’t work out when you return a year or so later. I’d be less surprised if he moved to Chelsea if I’m being honest. That would probably surprise some people considering Chelsea’s league position, but we’ve got to forget that as they’re still a top club, they will have a top team and they will bounce back. I still believe they have the pulling power to sign players like Mané.
Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips has been linked with a shock move to Anfield in the last week. Would his injury issues this season put you off if you were looking into the prospect of signing him?
Yes, the injuries would be an issue. Liverpool should be aiming to compete with Manchester City, so signing a player that can’t get in their team is kind of like accepting having their second-string players and Manchester City will be believing that they’re miles ahead of Liverpool. Psychology-wise, it’s a move they should be wary of. Kalvin is obviously a very good player, but his injuries make this move a risky one for Liverpool. He needs to get fit and show that he’s good enough for Manchester City before another top club tries to sign him.
According to Italian media, Nicolò Barella is Jürgen Klopp’s first choice for a new midfield signing at Anfield this summer. Would you be delighted to see this happen?
You always have to be slightly careful when you’re buying players from outside the Premier League, but Nicolò is very technically gifted, works hard and has a very good footballing brain, so you can understand why all the top clubs would want him.
Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch is another midfielder said to be on Liverpool’s transfer shortlist. He’s only started once for his club in the Bundesliga this season, despite Bayern paying £16 million for him last summer. Gravenberch is only 20 years of age and remains highly regarded, so considering his age and potential, is this a transfer that would excite you as somebody who’s connected with Liverpool?
I’d be worried about the fact that he’s not played more for Bayern Munich. He’s obviously a young player that looks the part and Bayern Munich must have thought very highly of him to sign him in the first place, but I’d be concerned that Ryan’s been unable to bang on the door more at Bayern.
If he’s not been good enough for Bayern, then will he be good enough for Liverpool? Buying players that are struggling for gametime at other big clubs can be a risky move, but sometimes the risk pays off.
Manchester United have reportedly joined Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in the race to sign Leicester City’s James Maddison. In your opinion, do you believe Liverpool should enter the race considering their need for new midfielders?
James is a very good player and he’s been brilliant for Leicester City. At Leicester, James is a big fish in a smaller pond and he gets the green light to do effectively whatever he wants on the pitch. At a top club, where it’s more structured, then he’s not going to be given that freedom or be the main man and you’d have to see how he adapts to those limitations.
I do believe he’s capable of playing for Liverpool if they were to ever join the race to sign him and if he’s not willing to be the ‘big fish’ then he can definitely improve at an even bigger club.
Juventus’ Adrien Rabiot is linked with a move to Liverpool this summer. Considering the question marks over his attitude and professionalism which have cropped up in the past, do you seriously believe Rabiot is a player that Jürgen Klopp would want to bring to Anfield?
From what I’ve seen of him on the pitch, then I can see 100% why Jürgen may want to bring Adrien to Anfield. I don’t know the guy personally or what goes on behind the scenes but from what I’ve seen of him on the pitch, you can see that he’s a top player. He’s performed at the highest level for the biggest clubs, so you’d want to sign him for what you see of him on the pitch, but I don’t know what he’s like off the pitch. I definitely believe he’s a player that Liverpool should look to sign.
Mason Mount, who’s been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool in recent weeks, reportedly held talks with Chelsea’s chairman Todd Boehly this week, in another attempt by the Stamford Bridge outfit to keep Mason at Chelsea. Do you have a sneaky suspicion Mason may end up staying at Chelsea or do you believe he’s definitely leaving this summer?
I believe Chelsea will be doing whatever they can to keep Mason at the club, but I believe the longer it goes on then the more likely Mason is going to want to leave. It’s easy to tell a player that you want them, but as he’s not playing then Mason’s going to want to play somewhere else as he’s ambitious. Nobody can be promised gametime, but Mason has not been playing anywhere near as much as he’d have been expecting to.
The longer it goes on, then the more pissed off he’ll be, so, of course, Chelsea will be wanting to soften that blow and remind Mason how much they want him but ultimately, players want to play.
Arsenal are also said to be interested in a move for Mason. Do you believe he’d relish the prospect of moving to the Emirates Stadium?
I definitely believe that Mason would like to stay in London and I’m sure that will be a big pull for his family too. Any technically gifted footballer with Mason’s ability would suit this current Arsenal team down to the ground. I think he would be rubbing his hands together if Arsenal came in and gave him the chance to stay in London and play in a team that’s progressing.
Frank Lampard is yet to win as Chelsea’s caretaker manager, since he returned to the club at the start of April. Now taking this current spell and his time at Everton into account, do you believe that Frank’s going to struggle to secure another Premier League manager's job in the near future? Do you believe Frank needs to leave Chelsea before the end of the season?
I feel so sorry for Frank. He’s come to Chelsea during two shit show periods. First time he came in as manager was when the club was under a transfer ban and now this time he’s come in when it’s more upside down now than it was back then. The two periods he’s had have been very tough but ultimately, people don’t care about the circumstances, they just care about the results.
I think Frank will definitely get another opportunity at a Premier League club because I don’t believe everything’s been his fault. Even if the club doesn’t have a manager, then the players are still good enough to win a football match, so I just believe this is an unlucky period and he’s inherited a team that’s in turmoil at the moment and I believe it would be hard for any manager to stop.
The Daily Telegraph has claimed that Mauricio Pochettino is keen on helping Romelu Lukaku resurrect his career at Stamford Bridge if he’s to be appointed as the club’s next manager. Do you believe Romelu is capable of being a success at Stamford Bridge?
I think it would be highly unlikely and that’s purely due to the fact that everybody will be sitting there ready to dish out the criticism as soon as he’s made a mistake. Everybody seemed to lose patience with him during his last spell with Chelsea and Romelu is certainly a good player and a good goalscorer, but I just can’t see him having a future at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are said to be in need of a mass clearout this summer, considering the size of their first-team squad. Are there any players in particular that you’d like to see involved in the clearout?
I believe that Ruben Loftus-Cheek may have to be part of that. He’s obviously looked the part for a few years now, but I believe he needs to go somewhere where he can play week in, week out if he’s going to make the most of his career. Same goes for Trevoh Chalobah. I don’t believe he’s good enough for Chelsea long-term and even if either of those two players leave this summer, the club has certainly shown that they’re not shy of the prospect of re-signing a player, so they could even return to Stamford Bridge in the future once they’ve gone out and played regular football. Just being happy to be at Chelsea, rather than playing regularly, isn’t good enough.
Do you believe Raheem Sterling will be unhappy with his first season at Chelsea?
I think he will be unhappy with how his first season has gone at Chelsea and more so because of how well it started. When he first bounced on the scene I thought Raheem was back and he was looking like he was at his best again, but even he’d admit that he’s tailed off a bit. You don’t become a bad player overnight, so I still believe he’s got a lot to give at Chelsea.
João Palhinha has been in excellent form for Fulham this season, with the Cottagers looking to secure a top-half Premier League finish. He’s reportedly attracted interest from Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and now Chelsea have reportedly thrown their hat into the ring to sign the Portugal international. Would you like to see Palhinha make the move across West London to Stamford Bridge?
He would certainly be a signing without risk as we’ve all seen what he can do for Fulham this season in the Premier League. Is he the player they need right now though? I’m not too sure. You can completely understand why a lot of the big clubs are interested in him and I’m sure he’d be even better when he’s surrounded with greater-quality players. If there’s a sensible way in which they can get this transfer done, then I’m sure Chelsea’s owners will be looking at that.
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Conor Gallagher is said to be of interest to Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund. Do you believe Gallagher would flourish in the Bundesliga or do you believe he should make the move to Anfield if Chelsea are keen to sell him this summer?
I believe he would be a success in the Bundesliga but if Liverpool do come calling for him this summer, then you have to take that offer seriously. Considering the fact he’s English, I’m sure he’d want to show what he could do in the Premier League and it would be better for his prospects of collecting more international caps. Sometimes it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind, so if he can perform for Liverpool, then it gives Gareth Southgate no choice but to pick him. If he moves to the Bundesliga and it doesn’t go to plan, then there’s a chance he could be forgotten about a bit by the England setup. If it’s an option between the two, then I believe he'll end up at Liverpool.
The Daily Mirror has claimed that Chelsea, along with Manchester United, have an interest in PSG and Brazil superstar Neymar. How much would you love to see him in the Premier League with your former club? In your opinion, should they pursue a move for Neymar if it’s viable?
We want to see the best players in the world in the Premier League. I’d love to see him here playing week in, week out, but I don’t believe it’s something that’s actually going to happen. It would be similar to any club signing Cristiano Ronaldo, as any club that signs him will sell out their shirts the next day. He’s got such a commercial pull, so from that perspective, you can understand why clubs would want to do it. It would be more of a superstar signing than a signing you need to actually improve your team because at his age you don’t know if he’s still going to be as good as he was. In terms of Neymar as an icon, then every team would like to sign them.
Chelsea are said to hold an interest in Brentford duo David Raya and Ivan Toney. Do you believe either player is good enough to make an impact at Stamford Bridge?
Yes and Ivan Toney even more so. He’s proved that he can score many goals in the Premier League and he’s a realistic signing that Chelsea do need and want. Regarding Raya, I don’t necessarily believe they need to sign a goalkeeper this summer, but they certainly need a striker. Ivan looks the part, seems like a good lad and would be a realistic signing in my opinion.
If you could sign one realistic striking option for Chelsea this summer, then who would you sign?
It probably would be Ivan Toney. Chelsea need a striker this summer and they should be looking at somebody that’s got a proven record of scoring goals in the Premier League. I believe it would be a very sensible move and he’s going to be a cheaper alternative to someone like Harry Kane.
Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel is another of the many players linked with a move to Chelsea at present. In addition, German sports publication Bild has claimed that Chelsea could let both Édouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga leave this summer, but in your personal opinion, do you believe Chelsea need a new goalkeeper?
I don’t believe Chelsea need to sign a new goalkeeper this summer. They already have two goalkeepers on their books that cost an awful lot of money, so at this moment, you couldn’t sell either of them for anywhere near how much Chelsea spent on them in the first place. They’ll just be chasing their tail if they went out and spent a load of money on another goalkeeper, so they should decide which of Édouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga is their number one, sell the other and bring in a cheaper backup option.
Who do you believe should be Chelsea’s number-one goalkeeper next season?
I’m not sure right now. When they’re both on form, they’re two top goalkeepers, but from what’s gone on in the past then I’d say Édouard Mendy is the number one. However, I can’t remember the last time Kepa made a mistake, but I do believe they look more solid when Mendy’s involved.
Do you believe David Moyes will be the manager of West Ham United at the start of the next season?
I’m not sure. I believe that West Ham need to find out what David wants to do and try to come to a mutual decision. I don’t believe he will be sacked if they stay up, but West Ham can’t be in another relegation battle next season, so I believe they either have to have a plan to rebuild or they both shake hands and go their separate ways.
Newcastle United have reportedly joined the race to sign West Ham captain Declan Rice. Do you believe Newcastle could be a desirable option for Declan, or do you believe he’s more likely to stay at West Ham rather than move to the North East?
I don’t see that one happening to be honest. Newcastle United have been brilliant this season, but if Declan is to leave then I believe it will be to an established title challenger. If he doesn’t, then he may as well stay at West Ham in my opinion. If Declan went to Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United, then West Ham fans could live with that, but if he went to Newcastle United, then I don’t believe the fans will see the benefit of that.