John Barnes Interview Part 1

There is talk of Salah looking for £500,000-a-week in any new contract at Liverpool – is he the type of player that you pay whatever it takes or does there have to be a limit?

JB: “Firstly, it’s important to say that these numbers are just speculative and so far, no one has confirmed that Salah has actually asked for £500k a week. His contract is expiring in 2023 so of course negotiations are underway but with that, as always, comes huge speculations as to what a player is demanding and these figures tend to spiral.

“Does he expect a pay increase? Yes – most likely, and rightly so, but whether he expects more than double of what he’s earning today is a completely different question. And truth to be told, I’m not convinced. But Salah is approaching 30 so any decisions made can’t be about his value in 4 or 5 years and what they can sell him for then; instead, it needs to be about what he brings to the table right now, which is a lot, and what he can do to help Liverpool to finish at the top of the table again. And that value, in my opinion, outstrips his value in the transfer market.

“Furthermore, different to many other clubs, Liverpool’s players get on really well which shows when they play – it’s a real team sprit and togetherness and that, in some regards, is priceless as it doesn’t happen very often.

“But also, Salah seems to be happy at Liverpool. He’s always full of energy, appetite and desire. And that to me suggests he’s happy where he is and I do think that within the next couple of months, his new Liverpool contract will be signed.”

Would Liverpool be making a rod for their own back if they do pay Salah, with others set to expect the same – Mane’s contract ends in 2023 so he will be among those next in line for talks?

JB: “Salah, together with Mane and Firmino, have created an attacking trio that’s feared by most other teams; and to have these three excellent players, who each bring so much to Liverpool as individuals, but also as team members, makes all three of them very hot commodities and players that Liverpool want to hang onto. So if that means paying them more to stay with the club, it’s most likely worth it…as long as it’s within reasons.

“Even at the best of times, contract conversations are always filled with speculations and rumours but even more so at the moment on the back of Ronaldo becoming premier league’s highest earner on £480,000 a week. So immediately, talks turn to Salah wanting more than Ronaldo and whether this is made up or not is yet to be seen but either way, it creates headlines. The highest paid weekly salary tend to become the benchmark for contract renewal speculations and then numbers goes up from there until the actual deal is confirmed.”

Do you think resigning Ronaldo will block the path of some of the club’s young talents? And do you think too many dominant players in one and the same team will have an adverse affect on the team moral?

JB: “Ronaldo going back to Manchester United is obviously massive news and you can understand why fans and supporters are excited to see one of the best ever footballers play for their team. But with that comes huge expectations and it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll perform under that pressure. It’s Ronaldo so anything is possible.

“For the younger players, to have Ronaldo as a teammate is simply incredible; not only will they learn a lot from him, playing-wise, but hopefully, his attitude and hard work – the never give up mentality, will hopefully rub off too. I also think that there may be a few players in the dressing room that will really benefit from having someone like Ronaldo as part of the team as he’ll bring with him a winning mentality.

“But whether he’ll be enough to make Manchester United actual title contenders alongside Man City and Liverpool, and perhaps Chelsea, is yet to be seen. No doubt he’ll make a huge impact but Man United are still left with the same problems when it comes to midfield and goalkeepers; and Ronaldo joining the team is not going to magically fix that.

“My biggest concern is that too much focus on Ronaldo, and to constantly getting him the ball, could have a negative impact on the current attacking players such as Fernandes and the overall game. It’ll also be interesting to see how much game time Rashford, Sancho and Martial will get going forward.

“And finally, Man United now have two players that needs to be pander to, Ronaldo and Pogba, and it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out. But whatever happens, it’ll be great to have Ronaldo back in the Premier League.”

Arsenal having a difficult start to the year – so say the least – should he be given more time?

JB: “Yes – is the short answer. I do believe that Mikel Arteta have what it takes to make Arsenal a great team but with the young squad that he’s got, that’s not going to happen overnight; but nor will it with any other managers.

“You look at Jurgen Klopp – that wasn’t all smooth sailing when he arrived at Liverpool and it took him quite some time to get where he is now. Ole Solskjaer is another example, he needed a few seasons to get things underway…and now he’s got Ronaldo.

“Arteta is a very good manager and he’s got enough credit to be given more time and I really hope that the fans and the Club will give him more time; especially the Club as they are the ones who handed out inflated expensive contract over the years…and now they’re stuck with these players, who doesn’t actually want to play anymore, but there clearly enjoying their pay check.

“Instead, focus, and time, needs to be given to these young, dedicated and skill full players who so desperately want to make a difference – the potential is there, just not the experience, which is why you need your senior players to help out and to guide the youngsters. Sadly, Arsenals senior players seem to be unable to do so. To be honest, if it was up to Arteta, he’d probably get rid of a lot of the senior players and put together a great tea, but he can’t, nor can the club as they were the ones handing out these long, bordering ridiculous, contracts.

And for these reasons, and many more, Areta should stay where he is. And if they can get the wind behind them, I’m absolutely certain they’ll start to win games and that will provide that much needed confidence that this young Arsenal team is currently lacking.”

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