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John Barnes: “When I played for England the top players were the top players for their clubs”

John Barnes believes that England's stars will fail to realise their potential.
John Barnes believes that England's stars will fail to realise their potential.

BettingOdds.com has teamed up with England legend and former Liverpool and Newcastle winger John Barnes to give us his insight over the course of this summer's Euro 2021 Championships…

Euro 2021 is underway and England have started the tournament brightly with a convincing 1-0 win against Croatia.

Despite England’s fans being upbeat after such an impressive start to the tournament, John Barnes believes that some of England’s best players aren’t going to realise their full potential because many individuals in the squad aren’t the top players at their respective clubs.

Resuming our series of interviews with the former England international, Barnes tells BettingOdds.com how there’s nothing new about this current national side, where he believes Jurgen Klopp should manage after his time at Liverpool is finished and whether he wants to get back into management after a decade without a club.


England kicked off their Euro 2020 campaign with a 1-0 win against Croatia. What do you make of this current England outfit and what does the future hold for the national team?

“When Gareth Southgate said this was going to be a ‘new and diverse’ English team, there was nothing new or diverse about it. There’s nothing new going on now. 

“The difference is, when I played, the top England players were the top players for their clubs. Bryan Robson, Glen Hoddle, Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker. The top England players now are not the top players for their clubs. Raheem Sterling is a top player for England, but he’s not the top player at Manchester City. You do have Harry Kane at Tottenham Hotspur, but the rest of them are really decent players for the top clubs, so how is the national team going to improve?

“In ten years’ time, English football is going to be exactly where it is now. The club teams are going to be the best in Europe, the best in the world, whereas the national team will always do well but won’t maximise their potential.” 


England Euro 2021 Betting

You were recently quoted saying that you believe Leicester City would be an ideal destination for Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. West Ham are now the bookmaker’s favourites to sign the player, which club do you believe he should join this summer?

“I think Leicester or West Ham. Leicester would probably be a bit better suited because they’re more stable than West Ham as they know that they will be in the top seven most seasons, which isn’t the case for West Ham. 

“However if he wanted to go back down south then I think West Ham would be a good move for Alex too.”


Rangers manager Steven Gerrard is the man tipped to replace Jurgen Klopp when the German finally decides to leave Liverpool. As an ex-player of the club, who would you like to see takeover from Jurgen when the day comes?

“Pep Guardiola. Of course there are other managers that you would think are better suited, such as Steven Gerrard who has had a very good season at Rangers, but is he going to come to Liverpool off the back of one good year? Of course he would be given time because of his relationship with Liverpool. 

“If you were to ask me now, if Jurgen Klopp left Liverpool tomorrow would I think Steven was the man for the job? Probably not because you would want a manager with more experience and is proven at the highest level. He would be given time because he’s Steven Gerrard, but would that be the right thing for Liverpool? Maybe not.

“I’m sure Steven will do really well over the course of his career, but he’s going to have to show a longer level of consistency over a longer period of time before we start linking him with the Liverpool job.”


Now if Klopp is to leave Liverpool in the near future, which club can you see him going to next?

“I wouldn’t want him to go anywhere, I would want him to stay at Liverpool! Jurgen Klopp is an all-encompassing manager who knows what the club is about. The way it should be. The manager should be the most important person. 

“The logical step you would think would be Bayern Munich. However, they have a hierarchy at Munich which is more powerful than the manager in a certain respect. Would he be a right fit for that? The managers who have gone there have been quite subservient to the group, ‘The Firm’ in royal terms. Would Klopp be that, is he that kind of person? He’s like Bill Shankly, a man of the people, quite socialist in the way he views things. 

“Is Real Madrid for him? No, I don’t think so. Paris Saint-Germain, maybe not. Barcelona I think in terms of the philosophy could be. However, Barcelona is quite steeped in its traditions of Rinus Michels/ Johann Cruyff/ ‘this is the way we play, we have to stick to that’, which is the wrong thing to do if you have a manager like Jurgen Klopp. 

“These are big managers with big characters who have big personalities who want to instill their own way on the team and they’re not allowed to because the fans or the situation demands it. That stopped Liverpool managers of the past, until Jurgen Klopp. He’s created a new way. 

“Is Barcelona the same type of club that if Klopp goes there and says ‘I want to play a different style’ and they respond with ‘No, Barcelona only plays this way, so you have to do what we say’, I think he’s always looking to try and instill his own way on the team. A team that can accept his way will be successful. Will Barcelona do that? He would have to completely revolutionise the playing style at the club to suit himself. If they’re willing to do that, I think Barcelona, because of the humility, and the essence of what it is - it’s not about the individual players - I think Barcelona could actually suit him.” 


Onto your former club Watford and their manager Xisco Muñoz. In recent years Watford have got a reputation for being a ‘sacking club’. Can you see Xisco lasting the season?

“Watford are a strange club. I played for Watford when they were probably the most stable club in the world, with Graham Taylor being there for a long period of time, with the same staff, same players, continuity, and that is the recipe for success. 

“Watford have got success with instability, the amount of managers they change and have survived and have got promoted, they’ve brought players and changed the squad. You know you talk about players who are committed to the club and it works. I don’t think, long term, it will work. I think they’ll look for more stability now. But nothing about Watford surprises me. Whether they’re going to change him or not, who knows?”


You haven’t been in management since Tranmere Rovers over a decade ago (2009). Do you ever consider dipping your toes in again?

“I’ve considered it for many many years. The waters consider you, more than you consider the waters. Everyone feels they can just become a manager. Of course there are certain groups of people who are given more opportunities. I’m no different to most black ex-managers who can’t get employment. Maybe I’ve given up now - I’m 57 - but for many years, every single year, we were hopeful, we went for jobs, and this is what’s happened. I’m no different to most black managers.”


Keep tuned for more John Barnes content for BettingOdds.com during Euro 2021.


England Euro 2021 Betting
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