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Glen Johnson on Díaz: “He looks like he’s been playing in the league for 10 years”

Glen Johnson believes that Luis Díaz has adapted to the Premier League quicker than most players.
Glen Johnson believes that Luis Díaz has adapted to the Premier League quicker than most players.

Despite only playing in England since January, Liverpool’s Colombian forward Luis Díaz has already cemented his place amongst the Premier League’s very best forwards. With rumours regarding the futures of both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, the club’s former full-back Glen Johnson doesn’t believe that Díaz has been signed as a replacement for either player. Glen spoke to regarding the impact of the former Porto forward, Liverpool’s rumoured interest in Serge Gnabry and Real Madrid’s links to Jude Bellingham.

Luis Díaz has made a major impact since his arrival in January. Do you believe the club already have their heir to either Mo Salah or Sadio Mané? Do you believe he already ranks amongst the Premier League’s very best?

“Yeah, he’s certainly fitting himself in that calibre, but I don't think he's there to replace Mo or any of the others. I think he’s there because they needed a bigger squad and they needed more players like him. I think even if Salah was five years younger, Liverpool still would have made the same signing. He’s just another great addition and he’s hit the ground running in the Premier League and it’s great to see, but it doesn’t always happen. You see a lot of flair players come to the Premier League and not realise how quick and strong it is. He looks like he’s been playing in the league for 10 years.” 


Liverpool are reportedly in the running for Bayern Munich’s Serge Gnabry amid speculation that the German is struggling to agree a contract extension. He could be available on a cut-price deal. How exciting would this signing be? And considering there’s already a number of players at the club in his position, do you believe that would put Liverpool off making a move? Or do you believe he’s a special calibre of player that would force Liverpool to make a move?


“I think if Liverpool can get a sensible deal done for Serge Gnabry then it would be worth doing.

“I don’t know what his contract situation is but if there’s a chance you could do a clever deal without a crazy transfer fee then he’s certainly got the ability to enjoy the Premier League. 

“Obviously they’ve got fantastic players in that position, but the more you sign players like that, the more it brings out of everybody else.”

According to The Times, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain turned down a move to Newcastle in the January window. If he can get a move away in the summer, do you believe he has a chance of making England’s World Cup squad later this year? Would you judge him in a sense if he doesn’t push for a move away?


“There’s certainly no two ways about it. If he wants to be in that England squad then he’s going to have to go out and play. In terms of ability, I think he should definitely be there. Obviously he struggles a little with fitness, in terms of staying fit and getting a string of games together. But if he goes away and stays fit then he’s got a chance.

“I would love to see him in the England squad. I like him a lot. He’s the sort of player that you need. He’s a good lad as well so he’d be another good one around the dressing room when you’re away for a long time. Obviously with his experience he won’t be the youngest one there by any stretch, but with his experience I think he would help a lot out.”


Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler has encouraged your former club to make a move for Tottenham’s Harry Kane if he’s on the market this summer. Do you agree with this? Imagine how much Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Luis Díaz could benefit from playing alongside him when he drops deep into that number 10 role.


“Any team that signs Kane, they’re going to improve, it’s as simple as that. He’s one of the old school strikers in terms of the way he plays and he’s found his feet again because he had a slow few months by his standards and he’s certainly back now. So yes, any team that gets him will improve overnight.” 


We’ve spoken to you previously about Jude Bellingham being linked with Liverpool, but there’s supposedly serious interest from La Liga giants Real Madrid too, who see him as the heir to Luka Modric. From your perspective, how exciting for you as an Englishman would it be to see a compatriot join arguably the world’s biggest club? Or do you believe a move to the Premier League would benefit his development more?


“I think it would be different. I think the way he plays he’d suit the Premier League, but obviously in Spain it’s going to be a lot more technical, a lot slower, and obviously at Madrid, he’s going to be on the ball all the time, whereas in the Premier League I think he’d have to use all his attributes. I’m not saying it’ll be too easy for him in La Liga but I think he’s got a lot more to give than sitting in the midfield and staying on the ball. I think with him, he could come up against some really tough teams in the Premier League and that’s where you’ll see what he’s made of. With Madrid, of course, there are some great teams in La Liga but it’s not week in, week out.”


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Conor Gallagher has had an excellent campaign out on loan to Crystal Palace. Wayne Rooney on Monday Night Football last week was particularly impressed with the midfielders workrate and that he has the quality to go alongside it. If Chelsea struggle to accommodate him next season, do you believe the likes of Manchester United could be interested in a midfielder of his calibre, considering their interim manager Ralf Rangnick called for the club to sign more aggressive players?


“Most likely. Gallagher’s been doing well, impressing pretty much everyone. You just hope that he doesn’t go back to Chelsea and not get game time and that will slow his progress down. That’s going to be a tough one. For me he just needs to play. This is when they get some nice form and learn their trade a bit more. In terms of work rate, he works his socks off and it’s great to see.

“If I was Conor Gallagher and I had the choice of either remaining at Crystal Palace for another season on loan, trying to force your way into the first team at Chelsea, or making a move elsewhere, I would go back to Chelsea, fight for my place during pre-season - if you have a good pre-season then you could gauge how likely it is that you’re going to play - and if I wasn’t having a good pre-season then I would go back out on loan: go back, work hard, see what happens.”


Chelsea are said to be one of the clubs considering a move for outgoing Juventus forward Paulo Dybala. Considering he’ll be available on a free transfer this summer, do you believe a move would be a no-brainer for your former club?


“Top players are hard to come by. Business wise, if you’re able to sign someone like him on a free, then you’re going to have competition from absolutely everybody. For whoever pulls it off, then it’s clever business.”


Former Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham has been linked with moves to Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City. He’s been in Italy less than a year, so do you believe it would be too premature for him to be thinking of a return to the Premier League?


“I don’t think you can judge him on one season in Serie A. The league looks like it suits him. I think it would be a risky one bringing him back to the Premier League so soon. He does however look like a completely different player. Maybe the pennies dropped and he’s improved.”


Liverpool legend John Barnes urged Liverpool last week to sign Declan Rice from West Ham. If he’s really being valued at £150 million by the club, surely Liverpool won’t be in for his signature?


“I don’t think Liverpool would be in for him if he was available for £150 million and I don’t believe that West Ham seriously think he’s worth that amount of money. They’re probably just looking to start a bidding war, as we all know. I don’t think anybody will be prepared to pay £150 million. It’s a serious amount of money but then again, Declan Rice is a serious player. It will be interesting to see what the eventual transfer fee is.”


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Sticking with the £150 million quoted for Rice, do you believe it’s unfair for your former club to potentially prize him out of a move?


“West Ham are going to try and sell him for as much as possible, whilst his suitors are going to try and sign him for as cheap as possible. I don’t think West Ham will take the risk of not selling him and potentially seeing him leave on a free transfer in two years' time when his contract expires.”


If Declan Rice was to leave the club, Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips could be set to come in to replace him. In your opinion, would that soften the blow greatly if Declan was to depart?


“It would soften the blow as he’s a good player but he’s not Declan Rice. If they do sign someone to directly replace him then it’s going to be a tough job for whoever that is. Kalvin Phillips would be a good signing for West Ham, but like I said, he’s just not Declan Rice.”


AC Milan, Juventus and Roma have reportedly joined West Ham and Newcastle in the race to sign outgoing Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard. Do you believe your former side, along with Newcastle, could miss out on the midfielder due to the illustrious sides being named as potential suitors? 


“If I was him, and perhaps it’s a bit selfish as I have my West Ham hat on, but I’d go back to West Ham. He clearly enjoyed it there and it got people talking about him again. He should make the move there and make a name for himself.”


And finally, Christian Eriksen is out of contract in the summer. Do you believe the Premier League’s elite clubs will be fighting it out to sign him, or do you believe he will remain at Brentford beyond the summer?


“In terms of ability then I believe he’s good enough to play for anyone. He probably looks at football in a totally different light now and wants to have fun. Fair play to Brentford for giving him this chance to perform. He may even stay there as he will just want to enjoy his football, but I believe that he’s good enough to play for anyone.”


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