On The Premier League
Who do you think has been the best central midfielder in the Premier League this season?
When you look at the season so far, with Arsenal top of the league, you must look at the impact that Martin Odegaard has had on the team. He makes the team better. Odegaard is one of the contenders for the best central midfielders in the Premier League this season.
Kevin De Bruyne, who has just become on the fifth player to make 100 assists, is also a contender. They are both magnificent players, so it is between them.
Which team has surprised you in the Premier League this season and why?
I’m surprised by the performances of Chelsea this season. We’re not used to seeing Chelsea in this position.
Which player has surprised you?
I’ve been very surprised by the performances of Erling Haaland. When you look at what Haaland is doing – scoring 32 goals in the Premier League and 47 goals in all competitions – it’s amazing! What’s surprised me is that he has registered these numbers in his first season in England.
Does Erling Haaland remind you of any of your old teammates?
He is a goal scorer and I played with a lot of big goal scorers throughout my career. All of them had different qualities, but they all shared the same killer instinct in front of goal. In that respect, he reminds me of Didier Drogba and also Raul – they were both killers in front of goal and Erling has that natural killer instinct that the best strikers in the world have.
Haaland has his own style, but he is more similar to Didier than Raul. Both of them were big guys and, usually you don’t think that big powerful strikers have that speed and agility, but he has that. He is also very strong like Didier. He is very, very quick, which is also a bit of a surprise.
Haaland has been amazing. I think everybody thought he would be good, but not this good.
When I saw him playing in Germany, I always thought that he would become a big, big player. I always thought that. Before he joined City, I was talking to my son, who is a PSG fan, about him. I think PSG were one of the teams that wanted to try and sign him and my son was very excited by that.
You can see that at his age, the goals that he scored, he was always going to be a big player. His performances in the Premier League have confirmed everything that I thought about him.
In your career, you were nominated for a Ballon d’Or. Do you think with the way Haaland is developing, that is something he will win in the future? Is he going to be the next superstar in football?
For sure. Look at his age and everything that he has achieved already. If he can stay fit and continue to produce these levels of consistency, scoring all of these goals, I think it’s a certainty that he will win the Ballon d’Or. There is no doubt in my mind.
On The Top Four Race
The race for the top four looks tighter than ever. Arsenal and City will be there, who do you think will join them?
When you look at the table, Arsenal and Manchester City will definitely qualify for the Champions League. Manchester United are a very strong contender as are Tottenham. I would love to see Newcastle finish in the top four because of what they’ve been showing this season.
I think qualifying for the Champions League would be a very good reward for the season that Newcastle has had. Part of my heart belongs to Newcastle, so I hope they can do it.
On The Title Race And Arsenal
I wanted to ask you about the title race. You were part of the Chelsea team that won back-to-back titles, it was the first time the club won the title in fifty years. You had experience of lifting big trophies from your time at Madrid, but most of that team didn’t have that experience. There are similarities to this current Arsenal team – do you think that despite the Arsenal squads lack of experience, they will be able to get it over the line your team did ort do you think with Manchester City breathing down Arsenal’s necks, the pressure is going to be come too much?
When you reach this stage of the season and you look at your position, there is no other option but to think that you can win the title. I think every Arsenal player will want to prove everyone wrong, because after Arsenal have drawn their last two games, everyone on the television and in the news is starting to doubt the team’s ability to win the Premier League. Arsenal have performed brilliantly and have put themselves in a position where they can become champions.
The Arsenal fans are desperate for a title. They haven’t won a Premier League title in almost twenty years, so they will be thinking about this for every minute of every day. There must not be any doubts in the Arsenal players mind about winning the title.
For the players in this team that haven’t won a title, this is a massive dream that they would have had since they were children. To make that dream come true they must continue to fight, like they have been doing all season.
Players like Gabriel Jesus and Zinchenko, the experienced players who have won the Premier League, their job is to drive the rest of the squad over the line and give them the confidence to go on and win the league.
It is very important that both of those players are motivating and advising the team, they know what it takes to reach the level of a Premier League champion – they must pass that on to the others and share the knowledge they have over the next seven games. If they can do that, then they will get rewarded at the end of the season.
If you had to choose between Arsenal and Manchester City as your title winner, who is it going to be?
(Laughter) Listen, you know my heart is with Chelsea and Newcastle, but Chelsea can’t do it this year. Mathematically, Newcastle…. That is difficult. When you look at the position of City, who are still making progress in the Champions League, Arsenal do not have any European games this season – they have seven finals left.
I think Arsenal will give everything to win the title. I think Arsenal have a slightly higher percentage of winning the league than Manchester City – I’d give them a 60% percent chance and City a 40% chance. In football anything can happen, let’s wait and see.
Bukayo Saka missed a penalty on Sunday as Arsenal dropped point against West Ham. Saka’s response to missing the penalty in the Euro 2020 final was unbelievable. Many people think that his miss against West Ham could be a defining moment in the race for the title. How do you think he will respond over the coming weeks?
Saka is an unbelievable player. I think he will recover from this incident quickly and will respond in the best way: by continuing to make the difference for Arsenal.
I am certain of that. In football, sometimes you can miss a penalty or you can have a bad performance, but the most important thing is how you respond and you come back strongly. That is what Saka will do, for sure.
Saka is in the running for the individual awards this season. How far do you think he can go in the game and do you think he could play for Real Madrid? Is he that special?
Of course, Saka could play for Real Madrid. He is a very special player who is still young – his potential is fantastic and he will only improve as a player. You can see how talented he is with his performances every week. I really appreciate him as a player and I think he deserves to be rewarded in his career by playing for big teams.
I hope that Saka continues to perform at the highest level. Nobody knows what the future has in store for him. Every big player wants to play for big teams that are competing for trophies.
You were an incredibly versatile player. How do you think that Ben White has adapted to the role of right back?
When I was playing, my first objective was to play and help the team and be on the pitch. I think Ben White has the same state of mind and he has been doing great in what is a new position for him.
On Aston Villa v Newcastle
Newcastle suffered a heavy defeat to Aston Villa. What would your message be to Eddie Howe and his players to ensure that they can finish the season as well as possible.
Losing against Villa was an anomaly, but Villa are a team that have been playing very well since Unai Emery was appointed and are a very difficult team to beat. Newcastle must keep working and play the football that they’ve been playing all season – they must get back on track.
In football, when you lose, you must never drop your head. My message would be keep your chin up and remember how good you have been all season.
The beauty of football is that there is always another game to come back and demonstrate how good you are. When you lose you have another opportunity to step up and show what you can do. Newcastle have an opportunity to do that in the next match they play against Tottenham.
Aston Villa have been magnificent since Emery has come into the team. Do you think Villa can qualify for Europe this season? Possibly not the Champions League but certainly the Europa League – a tournament that Emery is the mast of.
The Aston Villa players and Unai Emery will be thinking about qualifying for Europe. I have to congratulate them on what they are doing this season – they have won five matches in a row and are unbeaten in their last eight matches – that is amazing.
All the Villa players will be full of confidence. They will want to carry on performing at a similar level for the remainder of the season and I think they can. The squad will be encouraging each other and the mood in the team and in the dressing room will be very happy.
The fans are happy, Emery will be happy, so things are looking good for Aston Villa at the moment and they will want to continue on the path they are on. If they can keep up this form and spirit, they will be playing European football next season.
On Newcastle United
Newcastle are having a remarkable season. Next year looks certain to bring European football and the squad will need bolstering – what areas of the team do you think Eddie needs to address in the summer?
I think that any squad that is balancing European commitments with domestic commitments needs to add players. You need a bigger squad to manage the additional games and you’re looking for all of your players to deliver consistent performances when you have to rotate the team. In my opinion, I think Newcastle will need to add more experienced players in every area of the team. It is very important to have players that have experience of playing European football in your squad.
Newcastle has some younger players who are very good. Adding some experience to the group will be a wise decision. You need these guys in your team – guys that can drive and challenge the rest of the squad to constantly improve and compete.
Eddie Howe mentioned Newcastle will be targeting elite players in the summer. They’ve been linked to Declan Rice, Moussa Diaby and other big players. As someone that played for the club, what would be your message to potential transfer targets?
Newcastle is a great team that is going in the right direction. The fans are absolutely wonderful – they should not hesitate to join the club. If any Newcastle targets need any advice, they shouldn’t hesitate to call me!
You’re a good ambassador for Newcastle, Geremi!
(Laughing) for sure, for sure.
The progress that Newcastle have made has been incredible. What is next for the club and can the fans dare to dream about a title challenge next season?
One step at a time my Newcastle friends! I think we should wait and see how Newcastle finish this season and try and concentrate on qualifying for the Champions League. Let’s take it game by game.
Eddie Howe has brought the good times back to the Toon. As an ex-player how happy you are to see your former club at the right end of the table and how much credit does Eddie deserve for what he has achieved since being appointed coach.
Eddie Howe deserves huge congratulations for the job that he has been doing at the club since he was appointed. He has given the fans hope and he has made the fans very happy for the first time a very long time. When you look at Newcastle today, everyone is very happy. I have my fingers crossed that they can qualify for the Champions League because the club and its fans deserve that.
For so many years they didn’t have the opportunity to go and watch Champions League matches. I hope that Newcastle can remain focussed over the next eight games and concentrate on finishing as high as possible in the league.
We know the next period of games is going to be very demanding for Newcastle, but everyone should trust Eddie’s ability to get this team over the line because he is a great manager. My message to the team would be to take things game-by-game, concentrate on beating Tottenham and don’t think about Europe yet.
Newcastle have showed over the season that they are one of the best teams in the Premier League. They have sent a message to all of their rivals, and in some ways, it makes things more difficult for Newcastle because their opponents are coming knowing they have to raise their level to beat them.
One player that has been strongly linked to the club is Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney. Do you think he would be a good signing for the club?
Listen, when it comes to player recruitments, the most important person is the manager – he must decide what type of player and personality he thinks is needed to improve the squad.
He also must look at the performances of his own team. Dan Burn has been fantastic for Eddie Howe in the left back role this season, so if he is happy with his performances, then it becomes very tricky to bring someone in to compete with him.
It is absolutely crucial for Newcastle to make sure that when they are signing players, they are signing the right guys – not just in terms of their ability but also their attitude.
For Newcastle to reach the Champions League with this squad, their players have had to perform brilliantly. Newcastle will want to bring in players to have a competitive squad, but they must be very selective about the targets because Eddie Howe will not want to disrupt the harmony of his team.
Big managers are always tested on managing a squad and making sure that every player has a role and is happy – it isn’t about going out and signing player after player like Chelsea have done. I don’t think that Chelsea have respected some of the fundamental rules of football.
Football isn’t about having the money to go out any buy fifty new players! No, no – that is not football. I am sorry. Chelsea have made a mistake by signing so many players simply because they have the resources to do it. Football doesn’t work like that – there is no chemistry between the Chelsea players at the moment.
Chemistry is so important in any successful team if you want to reach your objectives. You need a united group that have played together and understand each other. You also need to have a clear squad hierarchy – players that are first choice and players that are second choice.
Eddie must think about that. He must think about how he will add and who he will add, but he must also make sure that the current squad is happy. My advice would be to look at adding some more talented younger players and some experienced players too.
On Sunday Newcastle play Tottenham. That will have a significant bearing on who will finish in the top four. Do you think if Newcastle beat Tottenham that will give them the confidence to secure a place in the Champions League?
I think if Newcastle beat Tottenham, they will have the confidence to finish in the top four. At this stage of the season, with eight games remaining, they will be thinking about the Champions League. It is remarkable because at the beginning of the season, I don’t think qualifying for the Champions League would have been the team’s objective – the progress the club have made this year is incredible.
Big teams want to fight for the biggest prizes and that is the path that Newcastle are on at the moment. Newcastle’s performances this season against the big clubs in the Premier League have been very good. This is a team that doesn’t fear anybody, and the player’s will be thinking that they can make it to the Champions League.
The Newcastle players will want to play in the Champions League – they will want to show how good they are. If they want to qualify for the Champions League, they will have to beat Tottenham. They have already beaten Manchester United and deserve to be fighting for the top four. Everything is in their hands.
The atmosphere at St. James’ is going to be incredible on Sunday.
I wish Newcastle all the luck in the world ahead of the game with Tottenham.
It’s been a disaster of a season for Chelsea. What do you think is happening at your former club and can you explain why they are finding life so difficult?
Nobody expected Chelsea to be having such a difficult season this year. I am still trying to figure out what has happened at the club this year. One of the mistakes that Chelsea have made is buying too many players. I can remember the first year of Abramovich, we also signed a lot of players, but we were able to gel, we were united.
I will give all the players, Frank Lampard and the owners time. There is no need to buy all of those players and I don’t think that signing a lot more players will help Chelsea in the summer.
I think that the new owners have found life in the Premier League a little bit trickier than they thought it might be. How much of an impact do you think their decisions have had on the season Chelsea are having?
Honestly, I couldn’t say, because I’m not at the club. I’m not inside the changing room or on the training ground. I am looking at it from the outside and I have been very surprised by Chelsea this season.
There are fundamentals that all successful clubs and projects need to achieve goals in football. You need the right people in the right roles at a club – people with experience – from there you can start to build. I think Chelsea need to start from the beginning – they should look at finding this foundation and the results will come.
Do you think that the owners would have learned some valuable lessons that will have help the team improve next season?
For sure. You always learn from your mistakes. That is very important. If the owners do not learn from their mistakes they will never progress. I think they will learn and have already started to learn from some of the errors that have been made this season. This is the owners first experience in the Premier League, so they must take these negatives and turn them into positives next season. There is no doubt that the finances are there, and they are willing to spend. In the future things will improve. I am very confident about that. Chelsea’s history is about competing for the biggest titles – that is the DNA of Chelsea – and I hope they get back there soon.
Your former teammate Frank Lampard has been appointed manager until the end of the season. Were you pleased to see him back at the club?
Of course, I was delighted to see Frank back at Chelsea. He is a player that I played with, so it’s a pleasure and an honour to see one of your former teammates taken on this kind of responsibility. All that I desire for Frank is to wish him all the best and I hope that he can achieve the same levels he did as a player as a manager over the remaining games of the season.
On Chelsea’s Next Permanent Manager
There are plenty of rumours about Chelsea’s next permanent manager. Some of the names include former managers, like Jose Mourinho. Do you think Mourinho could return for a third spell? Would you like to see the Special One make a sensational return to the club?
First, you must understand that Jose Mourinho is a legend in football and at Chelsea. He is a Chelsea legend that has experience of the club and experience of managing in the Premier League, which I think is very important for the next Chelsea manager.
I don’t know what Mourinho is thinking regarding the Chelsea job. I think the Chelsea fans would be very happy if he returned to the club. He is a legend of Chelsea that has achieved a lot of success with the club. If you asked him about it, if you asked him if Chelsea were the club of his heart, he would say “yes”.
He loves Stamford Bridge. He won so many titles there and he became a club legend. He knows the fans will welcome him with open arms. Let’s wait and see what happens.
Why do you think the next Chelsea manager must have Premier League experience?
I think it’s much easier for a manger to come into Chelsea with Premier League experience because they will know the temperature, the temperament and the environment. This is very important because that understanding enables you to gel right away.
Some managers without that experience will need time, but we know that in the Premier League, one thing most managers do not get is time. The Premier League is a relentless competition where the standard is incredibly high – a lot of managers and players that are new to the league must find their feet.
You have to learn the attitude of the league and the teams. People with experience of the Premier League have an advantage. They do not have to start at the beginning. It’s much easier if Chelsea’s next manager has experience of the Premier League.
You obviously experienced some amazing moments playing for Chelsea. You won several trophies there; you know how special that club is. What would be your message to any potential managers Chelsea have on their shortlist?
I would say that when you hear the name of Chelsea football club, it is one of the biggest clubs not only in Europe but the whole world. Chelsea have a vision and historically, the DNA of the club is about winning titles. It is about winning the Premier League. It is about winning the Champions League. Anyone that comes into the club as the next manager must bring that winning mentality.
The next manager will also be very lucky because we know that the owners of Chelsea will support their manager financially. Any manager needs to know what budget they will be working with to achieve their objectives. If you want to fight for the title, you need a certain budget. When you look at Chelsea, they have amazing financial fire power.
N’Golo Kante’s contract expires in the summer – he has been linked with a move to Arsenal – we know how brilliant he is when is fit. What would your message be to Chelsea’s owners regarding his future? Would you like him to stay?
Chelsea should do everything in their power to make sure that Kante signs a new contract with the club. He is a player that demands respect because of everything that he has achieved with the club since he joined.
He has spent many years at the club – this year he has had some injury problems – but we know the quality he has. When N’Golo is fit, we know what he can do. When you have this type of player at your club, you must keep them.
There has been a lot of conversation about Mason Mount’s future. How much of a blow would it be to the club if he were to leave and, again, what would your message be to the player?
We all know the rumours about Mount. My advice to him would be to stay at the club, especially now. I think there are a lot of great things to come in the future of Chelsea. In football, there are always lots of rumours about players, but I think he should stay.
On Chelsea v Real Madrid
What would be your message to your former teammates, and can they come back and win the tie?
Of course, Chelsea can beat Real Madrid. In football anything can happen, so why can’t Chelsea knock them out on Tuesday night? Chelsea must believe in their ability and go out an play. They have the advantage that are playing at Stamford Bridge, in front of the amazing Chelsea fans, they will have the twelfth man with the backing the crowd can give them. We will see what happens tomorrow.
Your part of a very special club of players that have played for both Real Madrid and Chelsea, winning trophies with both teams. I don’t want to get you in trouble, but where do your loyalties lie ahead of the match?
(Laughter) That’s a simple answer: it’s 50/50 for me.
You know what it takes to win the Champions League, not once but twice. When you look at the teams that are left in the competition, who do you think has the best chance of being crowned winners?
When you look at what Manchester City are doing, the first leg against Bayern, they must be one of the strongest contenders. We can never rule out Real Madrid. When they reach this stage of the competition, with the team they have and the experience they have, they will be thinking about winning it again. Those are the teams who I think who could achieve something special.
AC Milan, Inter Milan and Napoli deserve a lot of credit too. It has been a while since an Italian team has lifted the Champions League trophy. The remaining games will be very interesting and you can be sure that these are going to be great matches for fans all around the world to enjoy.
Who do you think the most impressive player has been in the Champions League this season?
When I look at the matches that I’ve seen, I have to go back to Erling Haaland. What Haaland has delivered for his team in the Champions League this season has been exceptional.
We must also mention Karim Benzema. Those two players, what they are doing, they have been really impressive. Of course, we all know that in football the goal scorers tend to get most of the attention, which I think is a little bit sad because without their teammates Haaland and Benzema would not have been able to score the number of decisive goals in this season’s competition.
This football. The strikers always take the headlines. Look at Vini Jr – he has been amazing this season. De Bruyne – fantastic player.
Are you keeping any eye on your old club’s performances this season?
Of course, I always keep an eye out for Middlesbrough. whenever I get the opportunity to see them play, I take it because they are a club that I carry in my heart. I had one of the best seasons of my career playing for Boro, so the memories I have of the club will always stay with me.
How impressed have you been by Michael Carrick’s start to his managerial career?
I’ve been very impressed with what Michael has achieved since he was appointed, especially when you consider that he this is hist first proper managerial job. He has been doing a fantastic job. I am very surprised how quickly he has adapted to the role of being a manager and I wish he can continue to keep doing what he’s doing and win as many football matches between now and the end of the season so ‘Boro can return to the Premier League.
Do you think Boro will go up?
I wish they can, I hope they can. I have had my fingers crossed for some time now and I am sending them positive thoughts. I would love to see them back in the Premier League.
On Transfer Rumours
Victor Osimhen has been lethal for Napoli. He is constantly linked to teams in the Premier League. Do you think we will see the African hitman play in our country in the future?
We will see Victor come and play in the Premier League in the future. It would be very good news for the Premier League because you want to see the world’s best players play in the league, and he is certainly one of them. I think the fans would love his style too.
I think Victor would be very happy to come and play in the Premier League. There is no doubt that he would be a great addition to the league and any team that wants to sign him. I am certain that a big club will take him.
He has reached the top level after what he has achieved for Napoli this season, so we know he will be expensive, but he is worth it. He needs to find the right club and project, but every single big club in England would love to take him. I think he will make the move.
George Weah is still the only African player to have won the Ballon d’Or. Do you think Osimhen could win the Ballon d’Or in the future?
Listen, for us, as Africans, we would be very proud and happy if Victor Osimhen could win it. There has only ever been one African player to be recognised with the Ballon d’Or. When you look at the number of players we have produced, the big players, for Africa it is a bit disappointing that we only have George. African people know that the Ballon d’Or is not an easy title to win, but why can’t he (Osimhen) win it one day? I wish that he can win it. Africa will be so proud if he can win it.
Reece James has been linked with a move to Real Madrid. Would you back the Englishman to be a success in Spain?
I think it would be a very good for Reece James to make, but I want to point out that, for reasons I don’t understand, English players have not been that successful when they join Spanish clubs. He might be the first one who could do it.
There have been a lot of big players that have made the move from England to Spain and have not been able to replicate the form and performances that we have seen from them in the Premier League. Reece James has the ability. I think he could be a star at Real Madrid.
Because of the season that Chelsea have had, and without European football next season, are you concerned that Chelsea may not be able to hold onto their best players in the summer? And would you also like to see some of those players show a bit of loyalty to the club and not have their heads turned?
Honestly, I think this is a serious problem for Chelsea. When you have this situation and the season that Chelsea have had, and the prospect of no European football next season, there will always be a lot of rumours about players wanting to leave and other clubs will also try and take advantage of any unrest at the club.
It is up to the management of the club. Chelsea’s owners and the executives need to speak with every single player to find out where their heads are for next season. That is a series of conversations that must happen. The owners need to know the intentions of their players.
It has been a very, very bad season for Chelsea. When a team has this type of season, a footballer will be thinking about a lot of things and some of the players will have already decided what they want to leave in the future.
The owners must treat every player on a case-by-case basis. When Chelsea appoints their next permanent manager, they will have a new project and a new target for next season. The manager will need to know which players he can reply on and which players that want to leave. I think with this approach and with a clear vision for the sporting project, Chelsea will bounce back, but they need everyone in the team to believe in the project.
Jude Bellingham is a player on the wanted list of world’s biggest clubs. Where do you think the Englishman should choose to play his football next season? Would you like to see him playing in the white of Madrid?
Wow, that is a very good question. I think Bellingham would be a very good pick for Real Madrid. Now, at this point, he needs to think very carefully about his next move and his next project. He needs to think about himself. He has performed brilliantly.
There are a lot of factors in any players mind when it comes to joining a new club. The first thought is the sporting project and his own club. If Dortmund can convince him that his ambitions can be realised at the club, then he doesn’t need to leave Germany yet because he is still very young.
If the Dortmund project doesn’t match his expectations, then he will try and find a project that does. He has to understand that going to a new club is a new adventure where in effect he will have to prove himself all over again – it is the start of a new chapter for him. Sometimes you can gel quickly, sometimes it can take time to settle into a new club.
Every player has been in this situation. This is a very important moment for him. If he takes the wrong decision, it can be very bad for his career. It is very important that he surrounds himself with people he trusts. He will need good advice. His family will play an important role. When a player’s family are not happy, that player will struggle.
My advice would be, if some of the projects are like Dortmund, where he is a starter and a key player, then don’t make a move. Assess everything that is on the table and listen to the people you trust.
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