Glen Johnson is a former Premier League, FA Cup, and League Cup winner, so when it comes to winning, this man knows. We spoke to the former England right back about footballers on Twitch, Chelsea’s signings this season, and more.
More and more professional football players are finding themselves in the gaming world. One particular example is Sergio Agüero, who has racked up 4 million followers on Twitch. Do you think this is an effective way to grow your branding as an athlete?
Yes. Obviously the demographic of that brand will be different with a lot of younger kids following Agüero rather than, say, 30 to 40 year olds. I guess it all depends on what type of brand they’re trying to build. In terms of eGaming, with the younger generation, there’d be a lot of interest and a lot of eyes.
You will know more than anyone how hard it actually is to become a professional footballer and the sacrifices you have to make to reach the top level. Do you think people are looking at a career as an esports athlete because they think they have a better shot at making it?
Possibly. Gamers as athletes are clearly not athletes. The amount of time they’re going to have to spend to get good at a game, they’re going to be sitting down for most of it. I certainly wouldn’t be calling them athletes, whatever it is they do or however good they get. If there’s one kid out there who’s the best on FIFA, they must have done something different to the others. You can just imagine the amount of time that’s going to take.
Gaming was seen as a problem in the media for a few footballers. Did you have any experience with gaming time being limited during your professional career?
There was a lot of gaming going on. I’ll be honest, personally, I’d much rather be outdoors with my mate than I would be sitting on a sofa on my own playing a computer game. But we used to get together and have FIFA tournaments and Call of Duty stuff, but it certainly wasn’t out of control – just another bit of fun. We still preferred to be outside.
We’ve recently seen a footballer reject game time for the lucrative opportunities Love Island has to offer. Do you support young players looking for career opportunities outside of the game?
Again it depends. If anyone’s going to pick Love Island over football then they’ve clearly not got a lot of confidence in their football. It depends who it is. If they think that’s a viable option then you could see why people would do it. At the end of the day, people want to benefit themselves, whatever career it is they want. But, look, you’re not going to get anyone from the Premier League on Love Island, are you?
Onto football, Chelsea has already made big waves in the transfer market. How many more signings do you believe they need to be title challengers this season?
To challenge Manchester City on all fronts is going to be tough, isn’t it? Even if you took City out of it, it’s still going to be tough. But to compete across a season you’re going to need a big, big squad. And not just a big squad – a quality squad.
I’d probably say Chelsea need another two signings. On their day, Chelsea are good enough to compete with anyone but ideally they’d want to get another one or two in; I’d say one more midfielder and an attacker.
Should Chelsea hijack Manchester United’s move for Frenkie de Jong? They’re rumoured to be heavily interested in the Barcelona midfielder.
Frenkie de Jong is obviously a fantastic player. What it would cost Chelsea, I would have no idea. If he is available then it’s another player worth looking at. Barcelona might have financial problems, but Barcelona don’t act like they’ve got financial problems at the moment.
One signing Chelsea have made is Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who Thomas Tuchel said was the best player on the pitch versus Arsenal in their recent pre-season friendly. He arrives from Serie A side Napoli on a four-year deal, with an initial transfer fee of €40 million. He’s 31 years old. Is this a sensible signing?
I think it will be a sensible signing for Chelsea. I don’t think it’s going to be straightforward, that they’ve got a good centre-forward, and now they’re going to kick on. I do think he’s a good player and I think he’s the sort of player they need. But no one’s good enough to walk in and fix the whole defence or the whole team. I think he could be a good player for them but the Premier League’s different, and he’s going to have to make sure he can cope with it.
Everton and Newcastle’s interest in Armando Broja persists. Will Chelsea have made an error by letting him go in any capacity? You’ve stated previously that he would have been your ideal replacement for Romelu Lukaku.
I think, because of the scenario, they’ll regret letting Broja go because they’re not selling him for huge, huge money. They’re letting a potentially great player go without allowing another club to break the bank. You’re not going to buy a player for the same amount of money for similar or better quality. You might as well keep him and work with what you’ve got. If you’re going to go for a renowned goalscorer now, it’s going to cost X amount of money. You’re not going to get him for £30 million are you? They’re better to work with what they’ve got rather than selling him for relatively cheap.
I’m not totally convinced Broja can become an excellent Premier League goalscorer but he is good in front of goal and he can certainly finish. I would just expect him to score plenty of goals with the chances that Chelsea are going to create. Obviously there is a big question mark, for sure. I’d rather keep him for that question mark then spend £80m – £100m on someone who would also have that question mark.
Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka is apparently seen as Manchester City’s dream Raheem Sterling replacement. He’s previously been linked with a move to Liverpool and his club are said to be preparing a new long-term contract offer, so in your opinion, where would suit him best, Liverpool or Manchester City? Or would you commit to Arsenal?
I’d like to see Bukayo Saka go to Liverpool. He’d suit Liverpool perfectly. But he’s playing well for Arsenal, and he clearly enjoys being there. He’s obviously a good lad, and you can see that from the way he interacts with other players. He’s still super young so maybe a few more years at Arsenal would work too. As long as he continues to stamp his authority there, then the big teams are still going to want to sign him.
Liverpool are linked with Ajax Antony, long mooted with a move to Manchester United. Even if Liverpool don’t necessarily need the Brazilian winger right now, could this be an opportunity to deplete a potential rival?
There is the chance for Liverpool to get one over a rival, but I don’t even think he’s the type of player that Manchester United need right now. They’ve got a couple of top wingers who just aren’t performing. I don’t think Manchester United will challenge for the title, but Liverpool could still impact them if they get Antony.
With Sadio Mané out the door, despite the new signings Liverpool have made, do you consider this Liverpool outfit less threatening than they were last season?
There’s always that risk of new players not hitting the ground running, and they’re certainly not all going to start performing from day one. Sadio was explosive and a goal machine, so it’s going to be very hard for anyone to replace him as he set the speed and the press up front. As long as the players try and not play the way he plays, and they play for the reasons that they were signed, then there’s no reason why they won’t be as effective as they were previously. They will be different though, that’s for sure.
Harry Maguire was linked with a shock move to Barcelona over the weekend, in a supposed swap deal involving Frenkie de Jong. Now despite the fact that this move is unlikely to happen, considering some of the harsh criticism the Manchester United captain has faced, would he have benefitted from a move to a different league, and could he be a success in La Liga?
I think Harry Maguire could be a success in La Liga. He’s not hit the levels that people were expecting at Manchester United, but La Liga is a slower league and he’d get a bit more time on the ball, so I think that would suit him, definitely.
Do you believe Cristiano Ronaldo will stay at Manchester United, considering the lack of suitors for his signature? If Ronaldo is to stay at United, then how will he be impacted by the failed move in your opinion?
He’s obviously super professional considering the way he takes care of himself, and I’m sure Manchester United would still like him to be part of the dressing room. I don’t see him moving to be honest.
Jesse Lingard has completed a free transfer to Nottingham Forest on a one-year deal. Now, in your opinion, why do you believe Jesse has chosen Forest over any of the other sides said to be interested in him?
He’s ended up at Nottingham Forest because they paid him more money. There’s no two ways about it. It’s not like he’s from Nottingham or is a Forest fan, I have no other words I can say about the move as there’s only one reason why he’s ended up there.
He’ll 100% regret not making the move to West Ham. To be honest, his move to Forest highlights a short-term mentality. He’s gone on a one-year deal and will earn about £20,000 more a week, when instead he could have gone to West Ham on a three-year deal and been playing in Europe. He would have ended up making more money anyway. He knows West Ham, he knows the players, but instead he could be fighting relegation every week with Nottingham Forest, which is hard work and will frustrate him.