Ex-Red and Mirror Columnist Stan Collymore joined us in another #LFC in-depth interview to discuss Daniel Sturridge, Klopp, Coutinho, January and much more in this 20-minute long discussion.
Read The Transcript
AHQ: I think we’ll probably kick off with the news that Steven Gerrard is going to leave LA galaxy. It hasn’t been the easiest couple of years there for him, he’s been at Liverpool a couple of times for treatment and he hasn’t played as much as he wanted. What do you think the future holds now for Gerrard, do you think he’ll come back to Merseyside possibly as a coach?
SC: I don’t think Steven Gerrard will come back to Liverpool in the short term. I will be very surprised, I think that if you look at, for example, what José Mourinho did with Ryan Giggs is that when you are a new manager or relatively new manager, you want your own people in and you want as few distractions as is possible to get, and by those distractions I mean club legends. All of the talk when José Mourinho got there was about two things, one was about Wayne Rooney, he dealt with that situation, he’s had him in the team, he’s had him out the team and the other one was whether Ryan Giggs was going to continue as assistant manager. I think that there are certain players that transcend fans views and opinions, but I think for Jürgen Klopp it’s going exceptionally well, he’s got a very good team there and a very good style of play which players are buying into.
I think that the furore around Steven Gerrard or even Jamie Carrgaher coming back the club would just be a little bit too soon. In other words politically, it’s better to be able to plough your own furrow, get a couple of trophies in the Anfield trophy room, and then maybe bring a Steven Gerrard or a Jamie Carragher, or any other player for that matter. In fact Sami Hyypia might feel that he’s still got plenty to offer the game down the line. The rumour mill is that Brendan Rodgers would be very keen on taking Steven Gerrard to Celtic, I’ve spoken to a couple of journalists on the west coast of the USA that have of course watched a lot of Steven and they feel that he didn’t really do himself justice in that couple of years, whether going to somewhere like Celtic, they’re a number of points ahead in the league, albeit a pressure cooker of course, particularly with the old firm games but one where you’re expected to win 80/90% of football matches and he can be rested a little bit.
I certainly think that from a Steven Gerrard perspective, if he wanted to continue playing that Celtic would be a very good option.
AHQ: Moving on to Liverpool, I was on call Collymore with you last week and you asked me point blank if I felt Liverpool could win the league. I think I’m going to kick off with putting that queation with you. Obviously in terrific form at the moment, fans are wondering, media are speculating but in your opinion can Liverpool win the league this season?
SC: I think they can, there’s no doubt that they can. I think that the issues are going to be is if 1 or 2 key players get injured and you’re probably thinking of the likes of Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, Coutinho, Mane and of course Roberto Firmino because they’re so crucial to the way that Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp wants his football to be played. I think that if you do a direct comparison example with the squads of Liverpool and Manchester City, maybe even Manchester United and Chelsea, is that you would think that the squad depth isn’t quite there yet for Jürgen Klopp.
We saw with Leicester City last season, I was speculating, you could argue that you could probably throw Spurs in this as well, I really didn’t believe you would be able to get through a premier league season of 38 games, the league cup, the FA cup, the grind as a lot of players call it, by being able to put out the same 11 or same 12/13 players. Spurs pretty much did it last season, Leicester certainly did, so if Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp have that kind of luck that the current champions of England did last year, then it is possible without a doubt.
They’re scoring lots of goals, one or two issues about the back four and I’m sure that Jürgen Klopp will want to keep more clean sheets but the stats don’t lie. 40 goals in the first 14 games of the season, the best since 1895 and when you bear in mind the strike partnerships and the creativity Liverpool have had in all of that time, that is quite some statistic.
So to answer your question, yes I do believe Liverpool can win the league, I think that Jürgen Klopp’s aims and ambitions are to be in the top table of European football and of course that’s champions league, so I think the lower end of the expectations is European football of champions league description and at the higher end, if they can keep everybody fit and motivated, Liverpool of course can win the league.
AHQ: A lot of people have put Liverpool’s good start down to the preparation in the summer and how well the club bought in the transfer window, Sadio Mane and Joel Matip and Gini Wijnaldum. What are your thoughts on the players who came into the club this summer?
SC: I think they’ve been exceptional; Matip looks as if he’s going to be a very good addition. There were lots of rumours and speculation however that they would go for somebody like Virgil Van Dijk of Southampton, but they’ve gone with Joel Matip and I think that he’s settled in very nicely. I have to say I don’t think they’ve got the back four and the goalkeeper right just yet and I think it’s going to be finding the right central defensive partnership, the right goalkeeper with one or two clean sheets behind him, whether it’s Karius or Simon Mignolet.
I’ve been very impressed with Sadio Mane, he moves the ball in transition very quickly, halfway line to the opponents 18 yard box in double quick time and Georginio Wijnaldum, he’s a player that I’ve watched a hell of a lot and maybe my expectations of him are way too high but I remember having this feeling about Moussa Dembele when he went from Fulham to Tottenham, I know that a lot of Liverpool fans have said ‘Look Stan he’s been very good, your criticism of him has been a little bit harsh’. I acknowledge that he’s been good but I think he can be very special, he’s one of those players that can ghost into the box, score cracking headers, his timing into the box and his finishing is very good, I know he plays a slightly different role for Liverpool and he will be having to make sure he’s having his defensive responsibilities as all players do in a Jürgen Klopp system.
I do think moving forward that Wijnaldum can certainly add 8/10 goals a season to his locker and to his armoury as a Liverpool player. So the signings have been very good, of course Liverpool at the moment are spending at a different level to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, it’s really quite telling that Jürgen Klopp can manage to get these kind of players, bring them in at a sensible level of purchase and get them playing very well and it also perhaps alludes to what would it be like if he had the ability and the budget to go and buy a player at £50/60/70 million.
That may come for Liverpool but I am very happy with the Liverpool signings thus far.
AHQ: One area Liverpool didn’t spend any money on this summer was left back, James Milner has obviously settled in very well there and been praised. In your opinion how sustainable is James Milner at left-back for Liverpool or do you think they need to go and actually spend some money on strengthening that position?
SC: I spoke to a couple of scouts and I know that they were looking at Jordan Amavi of Aston Villa, a French U20 international that broke his leg in his first season at Aston Villa so avoided most of the criticism from relegation to the championship. A very good left back but not quite ready to be a consistent performer in the premier league so I think that’s one that they’ll be watching moving forward.
James Milner is the classic model professional, he gets his head down, he’s always willing to play in a number of positions for club and country up until fairly recently, of course with England after the European Championship disappointment, he retired from international football. I think it just goes to show again the Leicester City and the Tottenham example from last season, if players are playing well in the positions that they’re put in and you can get 38 games out of them, keep going with them, keep sticking with them.
He’s got a very good injury record James Milner, playing very well at left back, it’s not ideal, but I think they will be able to get a very good season out of James Milner and maybe look to nick a sensibly priced left full back to be able to shadow him, to be able to ease him into the side or maybe go for a top quality left back come the summer transfer window.
AHQ: We’re in November now and lot of talk has already been cast to January. I think partly because Liverpool will be losing Sadio Mane to the AFCON and Danny Ings is out for the season. It’s been reported that Liverpool will look to strengthen in terms of an attacking forward or winger perhaps, where do you feel Liverpool need to strengthen and are there any names you would like to see Klopp go for?
SC: Well the interesting one is of course Daniel Sturridge. Lots of the rumours in the newspapers over the last couple of days have been ‘will he be surplus to requirements?’ I believe he will but I cannot believe that would be anything less than a summer transfer and certainly not a January transfer, unless somebody like a West Ham that are cash rich come in for him. They’ve had a difficult time of course with going to their new stadium and Ayew that they’ve brought into the side got injured early on after only just finding his feet back in the side. If West Ham were to come in and over pay, and by overpay I’m probably talking £30/35 million for Daniel Strurridge at this stage of his career, then the funds might be there to top up that and to be able to go for one of the big hitters around Europe as a central striker, but who’s going to want to sell one of their main men come January, the answer is nobody and by the same theory, I doubt that if Liverpool as they are at the moment, in a title race, why would you want to sell Daniel Sturridge, even if he only plays 6-10 games in the remainder of the season in the league, he might pop up with a couple of match winning goals, which could be the difference between Liverpool finishing 1st, 4th or 5th.
So I certainly think that the central striking area is something that they will look at but I don’t think it’s something that they will look at until the summer transfer window. Elsewhere, I’m still not convinced with the goalkeepers. Karius needs 10/15 games to be able to get his feet under the table, for his back four to know how he operates. I think the goalkeeper issue has been an issue for Liverpool since Pepe Reina was at his best, but I don’t think it would send the right message to be looking for another goalkeeper in January, when you’ve got a guy that you only just brought into the side and only just started to get games under his belt.
So in order of priority, you’re probably looking at a central striker and that would be it from Liverpool, it’s always about developing talent, not just buying off the peg. I don’t think the resources are there to be spending £60/70/80million on a player, so there are lots of players as well that are coming through the academy, lots of players that have forced their way into the first team and I think that Jürgen Klopp will go with them before he goes to the transfer market to strengthen.
AHQ: Just on Daniel Sturridge, you wrote in your column for The Mirror this week that and said you’d prefer him if, if he did leave, to go to a club that wouldn’t have the luxury of not picking him as first choice. If a transfer was to go through do you think Liverpool would be willing to sell to someone in the premier league?
SC: I think so, such is a feel good factor, I don’t think they would want to sell to a club they feel they would be directly competing with, that would probably be the rarified area of the top three or four clubs with the greatest respect to West Ham, Southampton. With Everton, I certainly wouldn’t rule that one out although politically that wouldn’t look great, but clubs are looking for strikers and they are looking for goalscorers. Daniel Sturridge, when you give him the right kind of service, he does score goals, the goal against Wembley last week was a classic strikers goal, at a time when England needs that little bit of a foothold. I think when we get to the summer time, I’m not the only person associated with Liverpool who is thinking “Oh if only Klopp had a Luis Suarez to work with for a season or two.” I don’t think they have £50/£60million pounds to spend, but if they can get north of £30m for Daniel Sturridge, and with the new television deals clubs like West Ham can afford that, so it is a possibility. If they can get that then maybe FSG will look to top things up and go into the market for a top quality line leader of the calibre of Diego Costa or a Romelu Lukaku, that kind of striker that very much can be the difference week in, week out. I don’t think Klopp has that at the moment with even Roberto Firmino, so I think that will be addressed come the summer.
AHQ: Talking of quality, Philippe Coutinho’s future has been in the papers this week. Liverpool have a history of selling their best players when pressured, but do feel the club are now in a position whereby if Barcelona or Real Madrid come calling they are better equipped to deal on their own terms as opposed to previous year where they have been forced to sell?
SC: I think the difference is the manager. I think of course when those two giants that traditionally finish first or second in La Liga and traditionally first or second in Europe in recent seasons, then it’s a very persuasive argument for a player to say ‘this opportunity only comes around once in a lifetime.’ I do think if Liverpool were to win a trophy this season, god forbid even two, it makes a more persuasive argument. If they get to the end of the season having finished second by a couple of points and there wasn’t any reassurances, which players and agents do look for now that you are going to kick on and buy quality players, players don’t have the same kind of loyalty that they did in the past. Whether it be Liverpool or Manchester United, players can’t guarantee that loyalty like they could in the past, prime examples are Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres. I think the deal breaker is a trophy, I think if Liverpool were to have some tangible success and Philippe Coutinho was to lift a premier league or even a FA Cup, it is then a reminder to the player that the good times are back, and that is the persuasive argument to keep you at the club. Unfortunately if Liverpool were to just miss out on trophies and all Klopp had to sell was the potential of winning trophies in years to come, then I think Liverpool need to ready themselves for a bid from Real Madrid or Barcelona. That’s what they do, they look around Europe, they look for the three or four best players and they look to unsettle players so it is something the club certainly need to watch.
AHQ: It certainly is, I just want to ask you about Mamadou Sakho, it’s been a series of saddening events since last April – do you feel there is simply no way back for him at Liverpool?
SC: I wouldn’t say there’s no way back, I think any clever manager would say get your head down, let’s see what your commitments like and lets see what your fitness is like. However, I think the rumours around Liverpool are that behind the smile Jurgen Klopp is a ruthless man, I actually think Sakho would be very good to use and utilise this season. In the 18-yard box he is a warrior of a defender, he isn’t so good at carrying the ball out, but if Liverpool are in a live title race as we approach February/March, and he hasn’t been sold, then use him. Use everybody available to you, and of course if you play a player that either wants away or you want to get rid off, and you play them in 5/6 games, then it usually adds a couple go million to their retail value. I think we are only going to know with this one when it comes to January, if he is sold then there is no comment to make, but if he stays then use him as and when. Players do pick up knocks and go through a lack of form, use him and perhaps look to sell him for a healthy sell-on fee when it comes to the end of the season.
AHQ: It certainly will be an interesting one to keep an eye on. Just finally, Jurgen Klopp obviously came in Liverpool over a year ago now and within a few months was signing a 7-year contract extension. Not many managers cane be given that sort of opportunity, for you how big of an impact has Jurgen Klopp made on Liverpool Football Club?
SC: Massive! He’s got everybody smiling, he’s got everybody believing. He’s put his money where his mouth is in terms of the style of play that he’s translated to the players in double quick time. He’s got a slight advantage having been at the club longer than new managers who have come in like Mourinho and Conte. He now needs to turn that advantage into tangible trophies, and I think he is in a very good place to do it. I think the style of play at times has been absolutely sensational to watch, on the deck with a modern tempo. They’ve got some quality players, they have a manager now who as a player you look at and think ‘I want to be part of this revolution’, and in all honesty you couldn’t say that with Roy Hodgson and you couldn’t say with Brendan Rodgers. You very much can with Liverpool now, Klopp’s put his money where his mouth is and signed on the dotted line. I would hope and expect should Liverpool pick up some silverware this season one of two of the players we’ve discussed like Philippe Coutinho will do likewise.
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