Exclusive: John Barnes on Naby Keita and Liverpool FC summer signings
We spoke to England legend John Barnes to hear his thoughts on Liverpool FC's season and the forthcoming summer transfer window
This week, we spoke to England legend John Barnes to get his views on Liverpool FC’s season and what the future holds for the Reds.
Liverpool FC came agonisingly close to winning the Premier League title this season, ending up in second place and a point behind Manchester City to leave them still searching for their first major trophy under Jurgen Klopp.
The Reds’ points tally of 97 is the highest ever for any runner-up in Premier League history and there can be no doubt that things are moving in the right direction at Anfield.
Liverpool FC can still end the season on a high by beating Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final in Madrid on 1 June.
We chatted to Liverpool FC legend on behalf of bookmaker comparison platform BonusCodeBets.co.uk to get his thoughts on the season and what the future holds for the Merseyside outfit.
What do Liverpool FC need to do to be champions next year?
Not lose a game, which is unrealistic, so they don’t have to do anything different. Ninety-seven points and losing one game… it’s unfortunate that they came up against a Man City side who got the second-most points in history.
Liverpool don’t have to do anything. If they finish with 85 points next year, and they can win the league, does that mean that they’ve done any better than this year? It does in terms of finishing first and not second but in terms of them winning more matches and showing a level of consistency means that this year has been better.
What they can do is do exactly the same, or less than they did this year, and just hope that Manchester City do less as well, because they have no control over what Man City do apart from when they play them.
Liverpool don’t have to do anything different, because they could have a worse year next year and win the league. They lost one game all season, how can you improve on that, apart from not losing any, which is unrealistic? What you can do is hope that City slip up.
Do you expect it to be a quiet summer transfer window for Liverpool FC?
Look at Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who haven’t played this season and are coming back in to add to what we already have.
We don’t need anything but yes, if a player comes up… but I don’t think we necessarily need to sign anyone. We’ve got a good balance and good cover.
Players may leave, but the main players are staying and so we don’t have to do anything.
What are you thoughts on Virgil van Dijk and the impact he has had?
He’s been sensational. But I think we’ve done him a bit of a disservice by talking about influential he has been with the defence.
Yes, he’s been influential but he’s been the most consistent player in the Premier League. He’s been brilliant in every game he’s played.
OK, he may make a mistake every now and again, but his consistency has been fantastic. That’s been slightly overlooked – yes, he’s a great player, but how much has he influenced the goalkeeper and the defence? He could have had bad games and still influenced the defence about him. But he’s also not had many bad games!
Will Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez returning from injury be like new signings next season?
It will be [like new signings]. They’ve played before and have been main players in the team. Now, of course, Naby Keita came and Fabinho came and Oxlade-Chamberlain has got a bit of a fight on his hands, but he’s a fantastic player, as is Joe Gomez at the back.
The squad is looking very healthy. We’ve seen that even when we didn’t have Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah and we had to play with Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri, we beat Barcelona 4-0.
I think once upon a time, Liverpool needed a best XI and if we didn’t have the best XI, we struggled to compete. Now, I think the squad is looking much more healthy in terms of even if we don’t have the best players, we can still win matches.
Do you see any weaknesses in the Liverpool team right now?
There are always weaknesses. That’s why they haven’t won the league and they lost 3-0 to Barcelona. Everybody has weaknesses, and Man City have weaknesses. You can’t expect perfection, but I think the balance is very good.
Do you expect to see more from Naby Keita next year?
Yes, because you have to give him a settling-in period. Fabinho needed a settling-in period – he needed 15-20 games before he understood what Jurgen Klopp wanted in terms of how he wants him to play. Now [Fabinho] is probably one of the first names on the team sheet and Naby Kieta is similar.
You have to give people time to settle in to a new environment and a new way of playing – but Naby Keita has shown that he is a fantastic player.
Once again, you look at the midfield players we have and there is going to be competition for places. I’ve no worries about Keita but that’s not necessarily to say that he’s going to play ahead of Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner or Fabinho.