In the first in our series of interviews we speak with Michael Owen about his thoughts on the current crop of England players and their chances at winning the World Cup, Liverpool's "average" start to the season and lots more. Check out the video below, along with the full transcript.
I think the most underrated player I ever played with at Liverpool was Sami Hyypia. That might surprise a few people because I think a lot of people would say “Oh no, he was brilliant”.
Sami Hyypia was genuinely top class. I mean world class. The only thing Sami didn't have was a load of pace, but he never really got in any trouble through a lack of pace.
It was the little things with Sami. Any passing drill, even when a ball got whipped across the front of the box, and he was claiming it. He would never slash it and go score an own goal, or even let the ball go out into the Kop for a corner.
Everything he did was just out the middle, left, right, foot, heading. Everything about him was just pure and he was an exceptional footballer.
Well, there's a saying in life that opposites attract and me and Emile were literally as opposite as you could get when you look at our strength, our size, the way we played.
I was pretty much a ruthless sort of goalscorer that just had eyes on scoring goals whereas Emile was far more of a team player far happier letting other people score rather than scoring himself.
He never used to get in any of my spaces that I wanted to run into, but vice versa, I never used to do the things that he was good at either, so we worked really well.
I think anybody that you ask, if it was Robbie Fowler or any centre forward that is a real goal getter, that they like to play alongside that player that might drop off or be that sort of unselfish player. I think that combination works.
Whenever you throw an extra person into the mix, then that obviously can disrupt things. Every club has got to have a squad that's good enough, if there's injuries or a lack of form or just to rotate.
So when Diouf came, we were all pretty excited. We were on the back of winning loads of trophies one season and then coming second in the league as well. We thought at the time we were on the threshold of winning something, we were just looking for those little final pieces of the jigsaw and both Senegalese lads, El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao came at the same time.
We were excited. We saw him play in the World Cup. We thought he was a good player. But, I think over time he ended up playing in wider roles for Liverpool. Obviously he had his chances up front as well. But in general it probably wasn't a partnership that myself and Diouf played together much. The same with Heskey, I would have thought.
A very talented lad, strong, he could withstand challenges. He was certainly a brave player and had a great touch. He had a lot about him, but on the whole, we were looking for somebody to get us over the line to go win the league and sadly that season, we couldn't quite do it.
Well, El-Hadji was quite a lively character. He was popular amongst the lads when he was in the dressing room, I found. He wasn't the shy type that came in, straight away he was quite vocal and got on with everybody quite well.
I think there's probably an element of disappointment from the likes of Carra, as you say, and myself and all the lads at the time that we were building something, winning trophies, trying to go that one step further to win the league. And obviously, whoever was the next signing, that pressure was going to be put on them to hopefully be that next piece of the jigsaw to get us over the line.
So it was probably unfortunate timing as well for the players that came in at that point because we had had success and we were improving quite rapidly. But he was a confident lad, and he's obviously a huge name in his native Senegal.
I had no problem with his character. I actually got on with him. But I can understand people saying what they said, but he’s certainly not got a bad bone in him. He was a nice guy.
Well, as you say, football nowadays is very different to what it was. Some say for the better, some say for the worse in terms of being a player and the pressures that come with it.
You know, social media nowadays, you can absolutely be the person that you want to be. You can create whatever image you want to create. Whereas back in my day, you are beholden to what anybody wrote about you.
A great example was me coming back from the World Cup in ‘98. It was almost the perfect scenario for the press to have one hero and one villain at the same time. That creates a story for the future as well.
So it was difficult to also be categorised and held up in a certain way when you didn't feel as if you were that way inclined, and I probably suffered as much as anybody back in the day.
I would have yearned for the press not to be as powerful back in the day and for us to have social media so I could get my personality across, because the perception of my personality is stuck in many ways from back in the day to what it is now.
There has been change. Obviously the scenarios that you mentioned can crop up, whether it's a story that's in the papers or on social media. But you tend to get more accurate stuff on social media now because it comes from the right source.
Well, I think in the main people are questioning why Liverpool have made a poor start then all of a sudden, they go and beat Manchester City. A team that looked almost unbeatable because they're playing so well. Going into the game, I didn't know many people that were fancying Liverpool for a victory.
They had injury problems, their form has been a bit in and out whereas Manchester City on the other hand were absolutely at the top of their game. But there's something about Anfield. I think the result at the weekend will probably quieten down a few people that were starting to write Liverpool off.
Now let's get it right. You know they've not been consistent so far this season. They are a fair way off the top of the league and that's not normal for Liverpool and the way they have been over the last few years.
But they're in a really strong position in the Champions League, and they've just beat Manchester City. They’ve played particularly well with a couple of standout performances, a 9-0 and a 7-1 this season. So the wheels haven't fallen off, but I think we're just used to seeing them at the absolute top.
There's loads of reasons for this, Sadio Mane leaving is not going to help any team. Injuries at the start of the season are not going to help any team. A lot of players came back, but then a few players, especially in defence, were injured again before the weekend. You can lose a little bit of confidence and things like that.
But, it would be foolish for anybody to think that Liverpool aren't still a huge force in football and won't still be challenging for trophies come the end of the season. I think it's been overplayed even though it's been a disappointing start in the Premier League.
Well, I think Liverpool have given themselves a mountain to climb.
Obviously the start of any season for Liverpool it's about trying to win the league. But the start that they've had, all of a sudden I think if you ask some Liverpool fans now they’d say top four is in jeopardy, not just being able to challenge for the league.
So I think before the weekend against Manchester City I'd suggest if City were to win then I can't see Liverpool clawing back that amount of points to Manchester or to any other team, like Arsenal for that matter. But that win has given renewed belief.
It could be a strange season anyway, with the World Cup. It's hard to imagine Liverpool can claw back double figure points against Manchester City. I think they can possibly do it against other teams, even though the likes of Arsenal are looking very strong this season.
So top four is definitely still a possibility. Definitely. I mean I wouldn't write Liverpool off challenging for the league still just at the moment. But we haven't got much room for manoeuvre and our one or two poor results and all of a sudden it will be all over. Top four is still definitely a possibility.
Well, I think if you ask anybody, any Liverpool fan, to predict who will be Liverpool's top scorer by the end of the season. I'd be very surprised if many said anyone other than Mo Salah.
He's just a consistent source of goals, he has been for a few years. You might have been surprised when he first came in and he scored all those goals. But I think it’s long gone when it comes to people thinking that was a flash in the pan.
He's one of the most consistent goalscorers in the Premier League. On Sunday against Manchester City when you need someone - someone that's just missed a similar chance as well - to step up, shrug that missed chance away and finish beautifully the next time round. He just showed what great character he's got, what great mentality he's got.
Mo Salah is definitely still the one person. If I'm thinking ‘we need a goal’, I’m still looking at Mo to produce it.
Well, I think Manchester United are slowly going about their job in terms of rebuilding and obviously getting more consistent form, consistent results. But we've seen with so many different teams that it just doesn't happen overnight.
There will be bumps in the road. And of course, they had a big bump against Manchester City not so long ago. But apart from that, their form in recent times has been very consistent, a very good last half a dozen games or so.
So it's going to take a little bit of time. And as I say, there will be bumps in the road where they lose but I think it's fair to say that you can see progress.
In terms of the team, Christiano Ronaldo obviously isn't getting any younger and is not going to be there for another four, five years. You never know, it might be his last season. So from that point of view, you do wonder where goals will come from.
Marcus Rashford has always been a goal scorer but never been absolutely prolific. Martial has had lots of chances over time. He's never been really prolific into the twenties, let's say.
So I think in terms of scoring goals, that's where Manchester United will have to address it at some point.
Defensive wise, they’ve invested over the years. I think fullbacks are still a little bit of a question mark. They spent a lot of money on the likes of Wan-Bissaka and Shaw, and they probably wouldn't be in the first 11 at the moment.
Apart from fullbacks, they've got strength in depth, with a couple of players for each position. Whether they look at that area in the future is another matter. Of course, Casimero coming in, much more of a short term signing. Well, I say short term, he signed a long term contract.
But, I think when you’re Manchester United, you're probably looking at the next Wayne Rooney, the next 18 year old, 19 year old, 20 year old. If you're going to buy somebody that you're going to pay make money and that's going to nail that position down for the next decade. But there's nobody really out there at the moment that they’ve done that with.
So they’ve having to bring players in like Caasimero, like Ronaldo, very much the here and now. But they might need to be replaced in the short term.
Well, who's available really? Someone like Erling Haaland, everybody was after him. But the problem for Manchester United is maybe 10 or 20 years ago, everybody just would have gone there at a drop of a hat. Now you get an exceptional talent like Haaland, then he's got the options of lots and lots of teams.
Who knows where Manchester United were on that list. But you would suggest that if he didn't go to Manchester City, then it might have been Real Madrid. And if it wasn't Real Madrid, it might have been someone else. Manchester United aren't necessarily the first choice for somebody like him anymore, so it's very difficult to go and find the next one.
Liverpool obviously thought they were signing one of the next bright things in Nunez and it remains to be seen whether he does develop into one of the world's best strikers.
They’re few and far between ‘the next big thing’ as a centre forward. You've either got to get in there quick and take a risk, or you buy the real thing and it costs you an absolute fortune. You might not even be able to get them because everybody's after them. So it's a hard balancing act.
And obviously Manchester United have found themselves in that position over a period of time whereby maybe they don't get first call on the top players at the moment. So they might have to think outside the box. And as I say, get somebody that's about to be a top player and buy potential rather than the real deal straight away.
It's a great debate, isn't it? And we've had it for a long, long time. I personally prefer Marcus Rashford on the left.
I just think as a centre forward at Manchester United, you probably expected to score in the twenties. You really do need to be one of the best, five or six players in the world. In your position to be playing there, if you're going to mirror the status of the club. I'm not sure whether Marcus Rashford will score that many goals, I'm not sure whether he is one of the top half dozen centre forwards in the world.
But I do think he's very effective coming off of the left side. So I personally think he's better coming off the left side and Manchester United are better off putting Cristiano Ronaldo down the middle or finding that next centre forward to replace Ronaldo.
There's a lot of pundits that I talk to that are split about this. But for me, I think he's better off the left.
Yeah, I have been impressed. I think people can clearly say he's got rules and regulations and a way that he wants to play. It might not be the way he wants to play in the future, but he knows how to get a result. So I've been quite impressed with him so far.
I think it's very, very difficult. I sort of liken it to Arsenal in many ways. A lot of people criticise Arteta right at the start, there were question marks and now it seems like everybody's a believer. I think, you've got to go through that opening six months, a year, maybe even two years and fight your way out of what is a rut.
You come straight into a situation whereby your club is far, far better than the performances and results that you’re currently getting. All of a sudden you get dragged into that sort of mess that's been left before you.
So I think he's done well so far. The jury will probably be out until Manchester United start winning things and challenging at the top. But I think so far so good for him. And as I say, there will be bumps in the road like they had against Manchester City.
But apart from that, the last 5/10 games have been pretty impressive from Manchester United and it looks like he's on the right path. But a lot of work to do.
Well it has to be Haaland. I mean, it was funny because at the start of the season, we were given all these questionnaires from the broadcasters that we work for and that was one of the questions. And I put Haaland as the top goalscorer.
But a lot of people were saying Nunez with Liverpool or Haaland for Manchester City. It looks so far that Haaland has hit the ground running and Nunez has had a stuttering start in terms of getting a red card and his form being in and out. But I think he'll develop into a very good player. But for this season, Haaland looks head and shoulders above everyone.
Well, Arsenal have surprised a lot of people, and I don't think it's a fluke. When you watch their performances, they've actually played really well.
The good thing for them is that they've got a young team. So you would think that energy and improvement will continue to come for them. So I don't think Arsenal are a flash in the pan at all. I think they'll sustain it. I think they'll have a good season.
But I think Manchester City are different class to anyone at the moment. I think they’ve had a great start to the season. Obviously they lost to Liverpool the other day, but they look so good in so many games. So I still think Manchester City will win the league, but I think Arsenal are here to stay.
Well, it is tough, isn't it, to call the top four. Manchester City for sure. I think Chelsea are probably going to be in the top four. Arsenal as well. It's very hard to leave one out, isn't it?
I'm actually torn between Liverpool and Tottenham at the moment. I'm going to say Liverpool, but how can you leave Tottenham out of the top four when they are playing particularly well as well? Manchester United, they've got a good chance. But there's going to be a massive team that everybody would expect to be in the top four that are going to miss out this year.
I do think Liverpool are still right up there among the elite. I think that even though Arsenal had a good start to the season and Liverpool are maybe ten points or so behind them, I still think that Manchester City and Liverpool are the top two teams in Europe for that matter.
So it's so hard to say. I'll probably say Tottenham will miss out. I don't actually believe that's true, but I don't know who else?
Well, I played under some great managers, and certain managers were vital for my progress throughout my career. I think I'm thinking of the likes of Glenn Hoddle for England, Gerard Houllier for Liverpool. Roy Evans gave me my debut, but I think one of the best managers of all time is Sir Alex Ferguson. I'd be stupid to to say anybody else.
He's been there, seen it done multiple times. He's lasted the test of time. Is it 26 years or something? I mean, just think about football, your life changes so quickly. But to be managing for 26 years and to be right at the top is quite, quite stunning with all the change that happens. You've got to change as a person as well.
So I think Sir Alex Ferguson would be hands down, the best manager that I ever played with.
I always say when asked that question, Zinedine Zidane was probably the best player I played with. He was amazing.
But I also say it with a caveat. You know, Ronaldo (the Brazilian Ronaldo) sadly, I only played with him at the end of his career, but he was just off the scale. Considering he was still doing what he was doing with so many knee problems and things like that, he deserves a special mention.
As does Steven Gerrard. Stevie could do absolutely everything. He could head, he could run, he was fast, he was strong, he could beat players, he could score, he could assist and vision. He had absolutely everything. And I played alongside him since I was this big. So we had a particular bond, I think, on a football pitch together.
But in terms of pure raw touch and quality and skill, someone who was just born to be a footballer, I think Zidane was the one.
I would probably go for Edwin van der Sar in goal.
I would go for Rio Ferdinand as the defender. I'm going to be top heavy with attackers. He was just an unbelievable Rolls Royce of a player.
I'm going to have to have Stevie Gerrard and Zidane as my midfield and I'm going to go with Brazilian Ronaldo as my striker.
I'll be on the bench just in case. I prefer to watch them than play. That would just be enough watching those a lot play.
I think it's important for players to just look ahead and to think about what floats their boat.
I know what type of character I am. Some people will be happy just to earn what they earn, hope that will last them for their lives and, slink off to a desert island somewhere. But it's not me, unfortunately.
I've got to work. I like waking up in the mornings, challenging myself and having something to do and trying to get better at something, trying to improve facilities or whatever it might be. I don't want to wake up and think, ‘Oh, shall I play golf today? Oh, it's a bit cloudy. No, I'll sit in the house’. It's just not me.
So for me at 24, I decided that when I retire, I wanted to be in both football and horse racing. So I set Manor House Stables up, bought the place at 24 and spent the last 18 years renovating the building, improving the business, etc, to where we are now.
We started with 20 horses back then and we've got about 130 now. So the business has certainly got better and I want to keep getting better. It's something that I get up in the morning, and if I'm not doing television work for football, then you'll find me here learning all about the business and trying to improve things.
I think it's really bad when people get criticised for having a passion outside. I mean, everybody has a passion outside of work.
For some footballers, it's playing golf. For some, it's a fashion line. For me, it was horse racing. But everybody has to have a get out, a getaway from the trials and tribulations of your job.
So it's criminal in many ways. These same people who see these footballers and see what they can turn to afterwards and see they've got no interests and they turn to drink or drugs or whatever else.
I was exactly the same at 24, 25, 26 I built this place and it was a real passion of mine. I got slighted. They were saying ‘he’s taking his eye off the ball’ and this, that and the other.
Yet the same people say footballers are thick and they've got nothing when they finish, and they should put money away for the future and should have a business for the future and all this. But then when you do it, they slate you as well.
It's a disgrace, really. But hey ho, journalists back then weren’t that pleasant.
Well, tougher in a different way, I suppose.
I think jump-jockeys are probably really tough. I mean, hurling over obstacles at 35 mile an hour is not my idea of fun.
I think anybody that does something passionately and they're good at something, that fear factor sort of goes away. I never used to go on to a pitch thinking, well, I might get ten stitches in my leg or do my cruciate or break my leg. You just deal with it if it happens.
So the fear factor, I don't think was ever there, but I'd probably say a jockey. I mean, I've been in a saddle as you refer to, and to trust your life with an animal, flat horses go even up to 45 mile an hour, and you're just totally relying on an animal and what they want to do.
At least as a footballer, you're pretty much in control of yourself. So yeah, I'd say jockeys are probably a little bit crazier than footballers.
I love certain aspects about Darwin Nunez. I think off the ball he's a real runner. I mean, he gallops into those channels with purpose, he can beat players. He's quick, he's a big lad.
I think his finishing hasn't been tiptop so far in a Liverpool shirt. I think he's obviously had the unfortunate situation where he gets a red card, so he's missing three games and that stop/start and the team probably haven’t been in top form. So it's not been the easiest of starts to his career.
But I remember watching him last season, against Liverpool a couple of times. He was absolutely electric and I was so excited when Liverpool signed him. He's shown glimpses of being a top player as well. But obviously there's one or two scenarios where you think, ‘not too sure about that’, a couple of bad decisions, he definitely should have squared it the other day against Manchester City.
But on the whole, I think he's still a little bit raw. I still think he's a bit rough around the edges, but he's got the hallmarks of size, shape, and desire. I love his attitude, he's playing on the edge and he reminds me a little bit of Suarez in that way he's playing on the edge.
He's just got to be careful that he doesn't do anything stupid and get a red card, like he did do. But I think there's lots to like about him, but also lots that Jurgen Klopp can improve from him.
I think it's absolutely what Liverpool would love and what they need, Jude Bellingham.
I think we've got lots of good midfielders but when you look at the midfield as a whole, you've got a couple of players that are coming towards the twilight of their careers, if they're not already in it. You've got a few players that are young and still to prove that they're the answers on a permanent basis. And then you got one or two players out of a good age but might be quite injury prone. I'm thinking of the likes of Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
So you've got a real group of players that you can't necessarily say, right, this is a world class player that's going to be here for the long term. As I say, the youngsters have got a real opportunity to stake that claim.
So I think it's an area that Jurgen Klopp knows that he wants to strengthen, and I think Jude Bellingham is the absolute prime candidate. I must say if I was in Jurgen Klopp’s shoes, I'd be looking at that. The only problem is, he's so bloody good that everybody is going to be in for him and his price is going to skyrocket. But he's absolutely everything Liverpool needs in my opinion.
I think they would, yeah. I don't think we're the richest club in the world. I think we do have to adhere to budgets.
But I also think that when we move for a player, we don't mess about. We needed a goalkeeper and we got one of the best in the world and spent the money. We needed centre halfs and did exactly the same.
So I think when we need it, we do it. I think we'll have the money. We might not have the money for many other players that summer, but if we go and do that, then I think it would be worth it.
Well the hope obviously from everybody is that Jurgen Klopp is there for many years. I mean he's just been incredible, absolutely incredible. He just got the city straight away. The people love him. He's created the most incredible team, incredible style of play, but obviously all good things come to an end at some point.
It doesn't bear thinking about, does it, that Jurgen Klopp ever leaves. But he's recently signed a new contract so hopefully still be here for a few years yet. Then the search, whether it's in one year or five years away, will start.
I mean the obvious person that everybody would look to straight away is Steven Gerrard. I'm sure it's his dream job. I'm sure that the Anfield faithful would love to see him as Liverpool manager one day.
But obviously he's got a job to do at Aston Villa and he's got his stripes to earn, let's say. So I think it's one of those whereby if you stop the clock now and you have that Klopp left tomorrow, it would be very difficult to predict who would be the next manager, but maybe in three, four or five years, hopefully someone like Steven Gerrard would be there.
The whole world changes doesn't it, all the time. So we'll see who's available when that time comes. But I think the romantic in me would love Steven Gerrard to get the job in the future. But as I say, he'll need to continue to earn his stripes at Aston Villa first.
It's hard for me to say, probably best asking someone else…
I don't know. I mean, it felt like figures were a little bit higher, one or two years ago than they actually are now.
Obviously, the Haaland move wasn't really a true reflection of his price because of the agency fee and all the different stipulations he had in the contract.
So it was an open market, free market, when I was 19/20 and at the absolute peak of my powers. I don't know, you're talking £100-something million probably, I guess it's hard to say.
Well, what’s Mbappe worth nowadays? I really don't know. If he was to leave PSG you'd be looking at £150/£200 million maybe? So if a mbappé was worth 150/200, I don't know...
But yeah, I was that similar type of player who was breaking through, winning the Ballon d'Or, won two Golden Boots and went to the World Cup at 18 and all that kind of stuff.
The one thing that you would say is even if I was worth £150 million, then probably if someone bought it they wouldn't have got a bargain because my career sort of got worse as I got older.
Well, I think he's had an unbelievable resurgence in his career. But he seems to have gotten better in recent times.
I'm not sure whether that's when Ronaldo left. He almost feels like he's more of the main man or he's got to play in a position that he prefers or whatever it might be. But I mean, last season he was head and shoulders, I thought, the right candidate to win the Ballon d'Or. Last season I was just incredible.
Not only winning the league and the Champions League, which in itself is an amazing achievement, but some of the moments he had, where he plucked goals from and how he did it, I mean, Real Madrid were literally knocked out of that Champions League on three separate occasions or something.
How they got into the final was a miracle and half of it was down to him. How they got past Manchester City, how they got past Chelsea for starters was unbelievable. Then Manchester City was just, wow is their name on the trophy? And even in the group stage, it was just an incredible time on and he was at the forefront of it all.
Yeah, I suppose I mean team of the year, it's always a hard one because you're picking teams from different countries and who's the strongest league and how hard was it to win in this league and etc.
But Liverpool were literally a couple of games off something that we've never seen before and probably would have gone down as the all time greats and then all of a sudden you lose a couple of games and people don't even mention them. It's incredible.
It just shows you that it's the end of the season when all the trophies get handed out, that's when you need to be winning those big games. So unfortunately for Liverpool, it was not to be.
For me, Real Madrid were the team of the year. However, I do think that the likes of Liverpool or even the likes of Manchester City were the better teams.
I think Manchester City showed that over two legs and obviously Real Madrid went through. They were battered for 170 minutes and had 10 good minutes and went through. I genuinely think Liverpool and Manchester City are the best two teams in Europe and have been for a few years now. But based on achievement, I probably think Real Madrid deserve that.
I think City are brilliant at the moment and they've got one or two rivals that I could see giving them problems: Liverpool in a one off game or two legged game. Absolutely. It's virtually a toss of a coin.
Real Madrid are always a tough nut to crack. Bayern Munich and Chelsea are quite hard. But on balance of everything, I'd say Manchester City ought to be favourites to win the Champions League or to be favourites to win the league.
The Champions League is the Holy Grail for them, isn't it, having won the league a few times now. But I do think that they're probably the best team in Europe at the moment, but still beatable. Ss I say, we saw that with Liverpool the other day, but I do think they've probably just got the edge on everyone else at the minute.
I'm not really sure. I think the Qatar World Cup, you could argue that at end of a long season in the Premier League they don't get a break and the players who are going to go to a World Cup could burn out. We always ask these questions no matter what.
You could flip it. I mean, I'm always a glass half full person. You could flip it and say, can a team ever be better prepared than this one? You've had a break in the summer, you start the season, you only play a couple of months. So you're really fresh and you go to a World Cup. That probably gets them at the absolute peak time.
At this point they're fit as fleas or they will be, you know, after a month or two of the season, they won't be struggling with aches and pains because as I say, they've only been going a couple of months.
The weather doesn't concern me, people talk about Qatar, but it's winter. It's going to be 20/25 degrees or whatever it's going to be. It's not going to be roasting hot. I think it's actually a positive. I think it'll probably be a really good time for the English players and for most of the world in fact.
Definitely. England can come close. I mean, in the last two tournaments, we've come forth and then second We're always there or thereabouts. I think we've got a very solid team as well. So absolutely we can come close. We can win it.
But my idea for the winner would be France at the moment.I know Brazil are favourites, but I just look at the squads and think France are pretty damn good.
I don't necessarily think at the moment we've got a real standout team. I think back to my era and Spain, who just went for a period of just how could you beat them? They were World champions, European champions, and they were head and shoulders above most things at the time, whereas at the minute you don’t really look at a team and think’ “oh, we can't beat them’, or ‘they're way better than everyone else’.
I think it's quite even at the moment. But hand on heart, if I had to pick one winner, I'd say France.
Well, France has always had that reputation in World Cups and the saying goes ‘oh, they'll beat themselves in the hotel’. Whether they struggle to get along with each other, or whatever.
But if you look at their record in the last 20 years. They won the World Cup in 98, and now they're back in business, winning the last World Cup in Russia. Winning two World Cups out of the last six is some going. They continue to have exceptional players.
So yeah, there's always those question marks about every team, injuries and can they get on with each other and is the manager this and whatever. But looking down the list of players in each squad, the France squad to me was the one I went ‘Oh God, yeah, look at those players’.
They've got the same manager. They are the reigning champions. They seem to stand out to me in what could be quite a tight World Cup.
I think one of the big decisions is obviously, does he go with three or does he go with four at the back and he might choose like in the last tournament to do a bit of both.
I've always thought in recent times that England have suited a back three. I kept my mind back to Euro 96, the World Cup in 98. We did pretty well with a back three that we had a great team the golden generation we kept playing about four when it just didn't suit I don’t feel.
Then in recent times, again in the World Cup in Russia, when we came forth, we went with the back three a lot, coming in second in the Euros we went with a back three some of the time.
I think it just suits our players. I think we've always struggled in wide areas. We're quite strong at full back but we don't tend to have wider players anymore. So I just think a back three might suit us better.
Pickford's never done anything wrong in goal, so it's hard to sort of ignore him. However, Ramsdale at Arsenal actually is probably giving him something to think about now. Probably as much competition as he's had for a while. The Pope is actually doing well. I'm not sure Pope's good enough with his feet to get into the England squad as first choice. So I'll probably go to Ramsdale, I think. I think he's quite good.
Right wing back. If everyone's fit, I'll go: Right wing back: Reece James. Left wing back: Luke Shaw.
I'd go Kyle Walker right off the back three, John Stones in the middle, Harry Maguire on the left.
Bellingham and Rice as two sitters.
And then I'm going to go with Foden and Sterling behind Kane.
I only know that because I was thinking about it the other day. The big question obviously is Mason Mount. I put Sterling ahead of him because Sterling has done really well in the England team in recent times, scoring big goals. But I wouldn't be adverse to putting in a Mount there and chopping and changing a bit. But that's probably what I would start with.
And I say, as I say, leaving the Mount out I find pretty hard to swallow but he’d certainly be involved in plenty in the tournament.
Just getting straight to the point: the one player I'm most excited about for the future, for English football, is Phil Foden.
I think he's got the ability to get right to the very top of the world game. I think he's quick, intelligent, his touch is amazing, he scores, he creates, he's a tough little so-and-so. I think he's got absolutely everything and he excites me more than any other English player at the moment.
I think he could genuinely be world class and get to the very heights of world football.
It's exciting times, isn't it, for Newcastle. The manager is somebody that I know well. I did a lot of TV work with him once he left Bournemouth and was out of a job, did a lot of TV work with him and I can't tell you how impressed I was with his knowledge and just him as a person.
I can imagine him being a brilliant man-manager, nice guy, and knows his stuff. I think that they’ve made a brilliant appointment with Eddie Howe and I think that so far he's just done an incredible job.
The players he signed, Bruno Guimaraes in particular is already a cult hero up there. But they've got others, they've got some great players and absolutely I can see Newcastle going from strength to strength, maybe even European football this year. I wouldn't put it past them and who knows.
If you're looking three, four or five years down the line, you'd be foolish to discount Newcastle if you're talking about Champions League places and maybe even going for the title in four or five years, you just don't know.
So it's probably exciting times for Newcastle fans at the minute and that's putting it lightly.
Well, I think when you first take over a club like that and if you got money and a new manager and things like that, everybody expects you to go and try to win the league. You can never have that you’ve got to go step by step.
You look at Manchester City when all that money came in years and years ago, they couldn't go and get the best player in the world straight away, nor can Newcastle.
Say Haaland comes available, he's going to go to Manchester City or he's going to go to a team that's actually winning at the moment, not a project that might be there in four or five or six years. So it's almost in stages.
When Eddie Howe first took over, it was the likes of Trippier and Chris Wood to get them away from trouble, a bit of experience, and build the building blocks. Now they're looking a little bit higher, maybe getting into Europa League places and things like that. With that comes consolidation and buying a better quality of player.
So there will be one or two cycles I feel for this Newcastle team if they're going to get to Liverpool, the Manchester Citys of this world. Players bought that possibly aren't the long term answer, but they certainly will get you in and around the Champions League. It's going to be fascinating to watch from afar.
As I say, it's loads of similarities to what Manchester City were 10/15 years ago and I just think that people probably need to be a little bit patient. Newcastle fans probably need to be a little bit patient and not try to go there and one big step, but it might take, as I say, a few cycles or a few different types of players before they get to the Promised Land.
But it's certainly a possibility the way things are going. I think they've got, as I say, a great manager, great support for the stadium. The infrastructure's all there. So, yeah, fascinating to see how the next few years go.
I have two moments. I think the World Cup goal in ‘98 scoring against Argentina to announce me to the world and if you mention my name to people now they probably remember me for that. But that FA cup final when I scored twice for Liverpool against Arsenal is the other.
People don't understand what the FA Cup meant to me and to all the people back in the day. It was THE game of the season, the biggest game in the world virtually, but for the World Cup final.
Now obviously it's star has dimmed slightly with the increase of the Premier League and Champions League. But I wanted to score the winner in the FA Cup final all my life and to be 1-0 down against one of the best teams about, the invincible era, on a hot day, the national anthem, everything that you dreamed of as a kid.
To go BANG and score with a few minutes to go and then just think I'm on top of the world here. I was so confident I knew I was going to score again. I knew it was coming. And then bang, again. 2-1.
To have an FA cup final named after you, to lift that famous trophy. That whole day was so special. So if I could have one day it would have been it would have been the FA final day. It was just immense and what was a brilliant season winning so many trophies.
But of course, in terms of fame, in terms of a top class goal, I think the goal is the one against Argentina.