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Glen Johnson on Lukaku to Chelsea: “I wouldn't like to see him return”

Glen Johnson doesn't believe the Premier League is the ideal location for Romelu Lukaku.
Glen Johnson doesn't believe the Premier League is the ideal location for Romelu Lukaku.

Though the new Premier League season is due to begin on August 13, the transfer window whirlwind shows no sign of abating. Exciting? Yes. Little bit annoying? Probably. Gripping? Undoubtedly.

Former England international Glen Johnson has talked to BettingOdds.com about the current activity which has had us riveted to the backpages, and we couldn’t resist bending his ear on where he believes his old clubs Liverpool, Chelsea, and West Ham United are headed and what (or more aptly, who) they’ve got in store before the transfer window slams shut on August 31. In the third of our series with Glen, the decorated right-back discusses a trio of terrific strikers in Romelu Lukaku, Antoine Griezmann, and Erling Haaland and which colours they’d look best in, as well as throwing in his two cents as to which Premier League player he’d like to see pick up the Ballon d’Or in 2021.

Reports have once again emerged that their former forward Romelu Lukaku is the man Chelsea want to lead their attacking line and the interest now appears to be reciprocal. Would this be a sensible decision for Chelsea to reunite with the one that got away in 2014?

"I’m not so sure the Premier League suits Lukaku to be honest. 

"Obviously he’s a big, powerful lad, quite physical but I just think the Premier League’s a bit too quick for him. So no, I wouldn’t like to see him return. But in certain leagues, he is going to get goals, albeit at a slightly slower pace."

Considering the financial crisis currently ongoing at Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann has been linked as a cheaper alternative for Chelsea instead of pursuing a move for Romelu Lukaku this summer. Would acquiring a player of Griezmann’s calibre put Chelsea in the Premier League driving seat?

"Yeah, but if I think they do they’ve got to get rid of [Timo] Werner. They’ve got too many similar types of players, with [Christian] Pulisic, Werner, all these quick, short wingers, which are great but you can only play two at a time, and to do that they need their focal point up front because otherwise they’re all doing the same thing. 

"I don’t think Antoine Griezmann could play up top for Chelsea with that sort of style. Werner didn’t. Obviously [Werner’s] got huge pressure on him, and though I think he’s done well enough, he didn’t set the world on fire. 

"So if they signed Griezmann they’d have to get rid of Werner."

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Though the chances of him moving to England this summer look increasingly remote, Erling Haaland is highly touted to become a Premier League face in the future, with Chelsea and Liverpool constantly in the conversation for the Norwegian wunderkind’s signature. Where do you think he would be the better fit?

“He would be equally impactful at either club if I'm being honest. But I think Chelsea need him more. Chelsea would need him to revitalise their attack.

“Chelsea play with an out and out striker whereas Liverpool don’t. Chelsea would focus their game around him.

“I think he will go on to have a fantastic career but he needs to find the right club to flourish.” 

Alongside Lukaku, Declan Rice is another former Chelsea man the west London club apparently want to see return to the club, but do they actually need the West Ham midfielder?

“I think they can do with him because of the legs. He’s got a lot of energy, he charges around and he’s super passionate so I think he would suit the club. 

“As long as he leaves the Hammers on good terms then they will still love him. I left West Ham on the right terms and my relationship with the Hammers fans is very good.

“I think he would suit this current Chelsea team. Imagine the legs of him and Kanté! I’d like to see that for sure.”

Speaking of West Ham, three breakout stars of the Premier League last season were Jarrod Bowen, Tomáš Souček, and Vladimír Coufal. But which West Ham player do you believe is of greatest importance to David Moyes’ West Ham project, and which one would you rue losing the most?

"Declan Rice would be the biggest loss. He would be the biggest loss.

"But the West Ham player that excites me the most would be [Saïd] Benrahma. I think they’ve got a fantastic player there who didn’t really feature last year as he couldn’t really get in the side as it was better for some of the other players to start because they were performing so well together and hard for the manager to change.

"But when Benrahma comes on he’s got that spark, hasn’t he? The spark that can win football matches. He gets on the ball, wanting it in any sort of situation. 

"And so I think if Benrahma can have a good pre-season, I think he’ll play a lot more football this year and I think they’ll be a lot better going forward."

After finishing ahead of both Arsenal and Spurs last season, and narrowly missing out on Europe, what would you consider a success or the minimum expectation for West Ham in 2021/22?

"I think Top 8. West Ham were chasing the Top 4 for pretty much the whole of last season, which was amazing, but let’s face it they were playing out of their skin and don’t have a squad to compete with the Big Five. So I think realistically Top 8, but the longer they can play in the Top 4 the more a successful season it will be."

Liverpool finished just four points but three places ahead of West Ham in the 2020/21 season, having suffered from numerous defensive setbacks. A player who helped ease the headache for Jürgen Klopp however was English centre-back Nathaniel Phillips. With the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez returning from injury, it has been suggested that Phillips should seek a move away from Anfield. Should he?

“He really impressed me as he came into the side during a really tough time and he stepped into shoes that were impossible to fill and I think all the other young kids did that as well. 

“They should all be proud of what they’ve done and Liverpool would have been considerably worse off if they didn’t step in and perform. 

“I don’t think Nat should leave now as he’s young. I’d like to see him leave on loan as he shouldn’t give up on the Liverpool dream just yet and I’m pretty sure he won’t.

“If he could get a loan deal to a top side where he could gain loads of experience then I think that would be a very good option for him.”

Norwich v Liverpool odds

Which England international do you think could benefit from time abroad, as Kieran Trippier has done under Diego Simeone at Atlético Madrid to win La Liga?

"Probably someone like [Manchester City centre-back] John Stones. Sometimes the game’s too easy for him, and I mean that in a positive way. He’s so controlled that it’s too easy and he loses concentration. And then he does something daft.

"So if he was taken out of his comfort zone, away from his family, away from his friends, somewhere where he’d struggle with the language barrier where he’d have to focus, then I think someone like him would really benefit from it."

Speaking of England centre-backs, what do you think of John Terry’s future in management, having left Aston Villa as Dean Smith’s assistant this summer after three years in a support role?

"It doesn’t surprise me that John Terry’s a manager or a coach at all. It was always going to happen and I do think he will get a big opportunity soon.

"Of course, he’s always going to want that Chelsea job. But everything’s about timing, and that role might not be open for another eight years.

"But the way things are going you just don’t know. 

"So where will he turn up? Well that’s the million dollar question. I just don’t know. Like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, he’d look to take an opportunity where the club’s going in the right direction, somewhere where he can try and improve the players, prove to people that he can manage good players, and then he’ll have to sit and wait for the big move to open. 

"As we know, Chelsea manager is the hottest seat in football, and you’ll be surprised if that doesn’t open again in two or three years. 

"I don’t think he will go there straight away, but he will be there eventually."

And finally, from a Premier League perspective, who would you give the 2021 Ballon d’Or to?

"I’d probably say N’Golo Kanté.

"You don’t often see holding midfielders win the trophy. It’s normally strikers because they do the glossy bit, don’t they? But I’m going to go with Kanté. None of these teams can perform if you don’t have a Kanté. Unless you’ve got that anchor, like a Lucas Leiva, you have to have that sort of player to perform. But when the strikers go forward and perform, they forget about Kanté. They forget that he’s just won the ball back on the edge of the box and driven it 30 yards. I’d like to see a holding midfielder get it. It’s like the only people that appreciate that role are the players themselves."

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