England’s World Cup run didn’t go as far as fans would have liked it to, a good Group Stage followed by a convincing win over Senegal, only to falter against a strong French team.
To chat all things England, we spoke with the former Three Lions and Liverpool right-back on the biggest gamers in the England squad, what’s next following the quarter-final defeat, and the latest transfer rumours.
With the 2022 World Cup semi-finals upon us, how important are interests, such as playing video games, for relieving pressure ahead of huge games at a major tournament?
If a player loves that sort of thing, then great. Ahead of big games, some players like to occupy themselves in different ways, as some players enjoy reading or going for a walk. In those big pressure moments, it’s important not to panic about football, so if gaming takes your mind away from it, then I’m all for it. Personally, this is what I used to do, and it may sound quite boring, but I learned Spanish and was working on the master’s course I was doing at the time.
Which of your fellow England teammates from your playing days were the biggest gamers whilst you were away at international tournaments?
Ashley Cole, John Terry, David James and a few others. We had other things available to us, like dartboards and table tennis, so we had a number of competitions, challenges and other things of that nature. We did things like that more than playing video games.
Onto the football, do you believe Gareth Southgate was responsible for any selection or tactical errors against France?
Not really, because it’s easy to pick the bones out of it afterwards. I wouldn’t say he’s to blame for anything. Overall, I’m shocked that Marcus Rashford didn’t play as much as I expected him to, having scored three in the tournament and looking like a real threat. That was the only thing I’d like to have seen more of. However, who knows if that would have worked or not?
I think England just fell into the Mbappé thing too much. The press and everyone was going on about Mbappé, and it was driving me nuts. France is a bloody good side, and it’s not all about Kylian Mbappé, as we all saw. Kyle Walker pretty much sacrificed his performance to keep Mbappé quiet, even though you can’t keep him quiet. Kyle was never going to stop him by himself, you need a solid game plan and to pay more attention to yourselves than Mbappé.
Were there any England players that you wished had a greater participation at the 2022 World Cup?
Marcus Rashford is the obvious one, but I’d have liked to have seen more of Jack Grealish too. It’s hard to discuss this, though as there are only limited positions where those two could have played, and everybody who started ahead of them was playing well. If Grealish had played more for example, then somebody like Bukayo Saka could have played less, so you’d be losing somebody else, if that makes sense. We’ve got so many good players in those attacking areas, so somebody’s sadly going to have to miss out.
Sky Sports Germany has claimed that Manchester United is out of the race to sign Borussia Dortmund and England midfielder Jude Bellingham. It’s claimed that Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid are leading the race, and that Jürgen Klopp is working hard to bring him to Anfield. However, it’s suggested that Bellingham would be available for £100-£130 million, so do you believe Liverpool would cough up the money for the player when the club is apparently up for sale? Where do you believe he’ll end up?
It’s a tough one. Despite whether Liverpool’s current owners are looking to sell or not, having Jude Bellingham at your club is an asset. The owners may be sensible and cough up the money because signing Jude should raise the value of the club, and they’ll get their money back anyway.
Let’s face it, if the club’s going to sell for say £4 billion, then what’s £100 million? I know that’s a mad thing to say because it’s £100 million, but if you’re buying a club for £4 billion, then prospective buyers probably won’t care too much if it’s £4.1 billion or £3.9 billion. There’s not a lot of difference.
If I was the current owner of Liverpool, I’d be thinking strategically and realising that having Jude at your club would be another selling point, I guess. They may look at it that way but, if they don’t, then the timing of this could be the reason why Liverpool lose out. I think it’ll be a race between Liverpool and Real Madrid.
Liverpool has been linked with a £30 million move for Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat, who has really stood out for Morocco at the World Cup. From what you’ve seen of him at the World Cup, do you believe he’d be a fine addition to Liverpool and the Premier League in general?
He’s looking really good. He breaks the play up really well, he’s comfortable on the ball, but what’s impressed me most is how calm he is. Against Portugal, Morocco was right up against it, and rather than just receiving the ball and booting it away in panic, he was still trying to play. I do believe he could be a good player for Liverpool.
Mason Mount’s contract talks with Chelsea have reportedly reached a stalemate, with the England international having 18 months left on his current deal. The Telegraph has claimed that Mount will expect to earn £300,000-a-week, so in your opinion, has he shown the quality this season to warrant such a wage? Or would you cash in on him if he refuses to budge on his wage demands?
I don’t think he’s got to the level to demand £300,000-a-week. Obviously, he’s a good player and Chelsea won’t want to lose him, but you can’t be held hostage to anyone. I can’t imagine he’s the sort of lad that would down tools if he doesn’t get £300,000-a-week. He doesn’t seem like that sort of fella. I don’t believe that’s true, so I think they’ll come to an arrangement eventually. Chelsea may have to keep Mount tactically if they do want to sign Declan Rice as well.
Harry Maguire had a good World Cup with England. Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, however, is supposedly open to the prospect of selling him for less than the £80 million the club paid for him in 2019. He was linked with a move to Chelsea in the summer transfer window, so do you believe his performances at the World Cup highlight to other top clubs that Harry is worth making a move for if Manchester United do move him on?
I don’t know because, to be honest, England hadn’t played anybody before the France game that was going to cause them a massive threat. In the group, they played Iran, USA and Wales, so if you’re a centre-back in those games, then it’s more of a shock if you don’t play well because you have the ball for 80% of the time. I don’t think top clubs will be looking into those three performances.
Top clubs are going to be playing in the Champions League, so they’re going to be more interested in how you perform against the top teams, so no, I don’t believe top clubs will fall for this World Cup form if that makes sense.
Atletico Madrid CEO Gil Marin has claimed that their £113 million signing, João Félix, is set to leave the club in the January window after a fall out with his manager Diego Simeone. Félix has flourished for Portugal at the World Cup and claimed ‘the way of playing with Portugal and then at the club is different. When the conditions are favourable, things go better,’ so with that being said, he’s been linked with Chelsea and in your opinion, do you believe he’d benefit from playing under a manager with a positive philosophy such as Graham Potter?
The way Graham Potter wants to play football will suit João Félix down to the ground in terms of getting on the ball as he’s a very good footballer that needs players around him. He’s a luxury player that requires freedom and he needs a manager that allows him to do that. If Atletico wants anywhere near the £113 million they paid for him, then that’s a bloody lot of money. I certainly like him as a player but he needs to play in a front three.
With Cristiano Ronaldo looking set for a move to Saudi Arabia side Al-Nassr, do you believe he may be regretting the explosive interview he did with Piers Morgan which orchestrated his exit from Manchester United? He was previously linked with Chelsea, but now it looks like no Champions League side wants to take a risk on him. Do you think his behaviour in his final days at United has come back to shoot him in the foot?
He would have thought long and hard about doing the interview, and it’s a shame that he’s tarnished his name at Manchester United. It was all unnecessary. I believe his actions could be the reason why other clubs are steering clear. However, if this happened six years ago, then nobody would give a s**t, you’d just go ahead and sign him. He’s not the player he was, and most clubs don’t need to take a risk, so it’s easy to steer clear of it.
Benfica president Rui Costa has stated that Manchester United will need to cough up £103 million for Gonçalo Ramos, who impressively scored a hat-trick against Switzerland at the 2022 World Cup. What do you make of that price tag for a 21-year-old forward who has limited experience playing at the highest level?
That’s ridiculous. I’m not being funny, but he looked fantastic when he scored the hat-trick against Switzerland, but then he looked absolutely awful when he played against Morocco. You can’t go from that to that and be worth £103 million, no chance.
Which Premier League club do you predict will suffer most from the World Cup break?
I’d probably say Newcastle United. They were on a massive roll and were probably the most in-form team in the league, so I’d say probably any side on that sort of run would have really not wanted the break. Arsenal could also suffer, considering the run they were on also.