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Football Insights - Jose Enrique

Football Insights - Jose Enrique

Liverpool travel to Arsenal midweek knowing the win will see them move to within a point of Manchester City at the top of the table and a title race that will keep fans on the edge of their seats for the final stretch of the season. Jurgen Klopp will know his side will have to be at their very best against a Gunners team that come into the game off the back of five consecutive wins and looking to nail down a Champions League spot for next season. Former Liverpool and Newcastle defender Jose Enrique talks exclusively to Genting Casino ahead of the crunch clash and also gives his opinions on Newcastle and their future under Eddie Howe.


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On Liverpool

Everyone is talking about Mohamed Salah and his contract situation after he rejected the latest offer from Liverpool, do you think he’ll sign a new contract?

It’s very difficult to know. I’m not very positive with what his agent is saying. I understand Liverpool don’t want to break their wage structure. Obviously the top players like Van Dijk and Jota will want more [if Salah is given a big contract]. I understand the club’s position but if you want to keep your best players… United are paying well, City are paying well, Chelsea are paying well, Madrid and Barcelona are paying well, then Liverpool should pay well.

They’re paying well already, but we’re talking about the best player in the world since August. I don’t think they have to give him what he wants, what’s going to be the difference? If another club gives him £10million-a-year instead of £8million-a-year, I don’t think it’s going to make any difference in his life. If the club want to sort it and Salah wants to sort it, it can be sorted. Hopefully the club and Salah can meet in the middle, but at the moment I’m not very positive about it.

 

Which other club, realistically, can you see him going to?

He can play for any club in the world. Gareth Bale is leaving Real Madrid, Salah could play there. Playing for Real Madrid is incredible. The love he gets in Liverpool, he could retire there as a legend as the best player in the club’s history if he keeps producing these types of numbers and stays.

I understand Salah is the best player in the world and obviously you’d want to get paid accordingly, but if both sides are clever, they’ll have to reach a middle ground. That should be happening, but I’m not very positive about it today. It would be a massive mistake from him to go and a massive mistake from Liverpool to let him go.

Jamie Carragher said Liverpool fans would never forgive the club’s owners if they let Salah leave, do you think there would be fan-led protests if Salah left?
I don’t think there would be protests. These owners have been doing a few things already that the fans aren’t happy with. Salah would be the last thing to say, ‘we’ve had enough, we’re not happy with the way things are going’.

I understand the approach of the club with signing players like Luis Diaz, spending £50m, £60m and not spending £100m on players like United and City. I get it, but when you start to have world class players, you should pay them accordingly, like other clubs do. People are talking only about Salah, but Firmino and Mane are in the same situation. They should solve all these kinds of situations because they still have a lot to give to the club. 

 

If Salah leaves Liverpool, who would you like to see replace him?

I don’t think there is any player like him at the moment. There are very good players out there, like Raphinha from Leeds, he’s a top player. But what Salah has, not many players in the world have. He has a goal in him, work-rate, he has everything.

Maybe the only thing you can say is he’s not great in the air. It’s very difficult to adapt to Klopp’s style, Fabinho arrived and didn’t play at first, now he’s the best holding midfielder in the Premier League. Some players take some time to adapt to Klopp’s style because he’s very demanding.

Thiago is still adapting to his style and he’s a world class player. So it’s not very easy to find the right players to fit Klopp’s style. That’s why I believe when you have players like Salah, they should retire at the club. It won’t be easy to replace Salah, but there are players who could replace him; Raphinha could be one, I really like Bukayo Saka.

He’s very young, but maybe he could become a player close to Salah one day. This kind of player could do the job. But if you let Salah go and pay £80million for Saka, plus the salary, it doesn’t make sense to me. 

 

Around 18 months ago, you said in an interview Steven Gerrard should not replace Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager due to the pressure being too high - but given the job he’s done at Rangers and is doing at Villa - is he now the right man to replace Klopp when the German leaves?

He will be a Liverpool manager one day, 100 per cent. With Jurgen you’re not just replacing a manager, you’re replacing everything. A lot of credit has to go to the players and staff that people don’t see working behind the scenes to help the players to perform.

If you ask any player who played for Liverpool and other top clubs, no one treats their families as well as Liverpool do. But what Klopp has built at the club… maybe the only other manager who has built something like that is Sir Alex Ferguson. Obviously he was at United a lot longer than Klopp has been at Liverpool, but building that connection between the fans and players, everyone loves Klopp, to build something like that, it’s taken him years to make doubters into believers.

I don’t think there is anyone who can replace Klopp, but I see Steven Gerrard as a future Liverpool manager. He has grown as a manager with Rangers and now at Aston Villa. I hope Klopp is there for a very long time because the connection he has with the club and fans and what he’s built is just amazing. The only manager I’ve seen build something similar in a club is Ferguson at United.


On Arsenal V Liverpool 

I hope Liverpool win. It’ll be a very tricky game. Obviously with Man City dropping two points against Crystal Palace, that result can be a motivation for the players because if they win, they’ll be one point behind City. It would be in their hands because they still have to play City. City will be feeling the pressure.

Arsenal and Arteta are building something beautiful as well because the club trust him. Now, they’re in the Champions League positions and they’ll finish the season there. The City result will just lift the Liverpool players even more. 

 

Arsenal are in great form under Arteta, how many players - if any - would get into the current Liverpool XI and why?

I don’t think any Arsenal player gets into Liverpool’s XI. Who are you going to take out of Liverpool? I like Emile Smith Rowe, but the only one player I’d take to Liverpool for the present and future and who could fight for a place is Saka.

I love him. I love his attitude. I love his behaviour on and off the pitch. I love players who are humble and he’s very, very humble, you can see that. The ability he has and the desire he has to do well in football is great. So if I had to take one player, I wouldn’t replace any of Liverpool’s starters, but it would be Saka.

 

Is the quadruple or treble a realistic aim for Liverpool this season? Do you think they can do it?

Realistically, yes they can do it. The opportunity is there. If Liverpool win all their remaining Premier League games, they win the league. The Champions League is also going really well for them. With the situations in the Premier League and Champions League, Klopp, for the FA Cup, won’t do what he did towards the end of the Carabao Cup and play his starters.

But why can’t they win everything? If they win either the Champions League or Premier League with the Carabao Cup, everyone at the club would be incredibly happy because winning trophies is very difficult.


On Newcastle

Has Eddie Howe proven he can be the man to take Newcastle to the very top end of the Premier League table?

One hundred per cent. Eddie did a wonderful job at Bournemouth. At the moment, Newcastle just want to spend and invest in the club. If they back Eddie, they can climb to the top end of the table. They trusted him in January and look where the club are right now. When I saw the January signings, I thought they were going to stay in the Premier League under Eddie.

So I really believe he’s the man and they have to trust him with the signings and I believe he can build something very good. Eddie has everything - he’s very good tactically, his man-management is very good and he’s young, so he has a lot of years ahead of him to keep learning and helping Newcastle reach their goals.

 

Could Newcastle challenge for Europe next season?

It could be an option. It’ll depend on the signings in the summer. I think they’re going to go big. With the wages Newcastle can pay, I believe they can bring in very, very good players, to reach their goals.

Why can’t they challenge for Europe? Reaching the Champions League is still very far away, but I don’t see why they can’t fight for the Europa Conference League or Europa League or top ten positions.


On Cheltenham

With Cheltenham Festival racing starting today, I wondered if you had any memory of your former Newcastle teammate Michael Owen acting any differently when the races were on?

I don’t have any stories about that because when I was with him my English wasn’t the greatest. I was with him for two seasons and we were relegated to the Championship and he left. Even then he’s been very good to me.

I knew he had his own horses and loved racing. Like a lot of English players, they love their horse racing. It would be something he was looking forward to. When he was a player, you can see him talking about it in the dressing room.

 

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V: 1.14.1 All rights reserved. August 2021
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