- Mo Salah and Harry Kane are the Premier League’s best players…
- Alisson’s wonder-goal turned the tides on Liverpool’s season…
- Letting Gini Wijnaldum leave this summer would be a mistake…
- Liverpool need to spend money to keep up with Manchester City…
- Luis Suarez and Atletico Madrid winning La Liga…
This is the third in a series of columns Jose Enrique, Liverpool’s former left-back, is writing for Empire of the Kop.
In it, Jose writes about his thoughts on Liverpool’s season, Gini Wijnaldum’s legacy, why Trent Alexander-Arnold will to go with England to the EUROS and the intriguing future of Harry Kane, amongst other pressing Anfield issues.
Liverpool’s Player of the Season
Mohamed Salah has been – without doubt – Liverpool’s most important player this season, but I honestly don’t believe he’s at his best, I don’t believe he’s playing at his highest level. This season in particular, without the fans, he’s not used to what we saw in the last game with 10,000 supporters back at Anfield – they’ll affect him a lot.
Obviously, the goals he’s scored has got us Champions League qualification – that’s the worth of Salah; he was fighting with Harry Kane for the Golden Boot until the very end. The team hadn’t been playing at the level we’re used to, but Salah was still scoring so many important goals for us.
Without him we definitely would not have finished inside the top four, maybe not even top six, because the reality is Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have not been at their usual level this year, but Salah always steps up and scores the goals when we need him.
Harry Kane should be FWA Player of the Year, not Ruben Dias
Manchester City’s Ruben Dias was named FWA Player of the Year, but Virgil van Dijk – at his highest level – is still far and away a better player than Dias, in my opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, Dias is a really, really good player. I believe he helped Manchester City a lot defensively, but van Dijk won Player of the Year and finished second in the Ballon d’Or behind Lionel Messi. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Dias is up there, but Harry Kane was unbelievable this season and I think I’d have to name him my Premier League Player of the Year, if I’m excluding Liverpool players.
Not just for his goals, but because of his assists. I love Kevin De Bruyne, I always rate him one of the best players in the Premier League, but for his goal contributions, I’d give it to Kane.
Alisson’s wonder-goal was a wake-up call
Wow, Alisson’s goal summed up what this team is all about – it’s about belief and he believed he could do that! I watched the goal over and over, as you all probably did too, and you can see how the defenders allowed him to be free, he didn’t have anyone marking him.
When Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped in the corner, you could see Nat Phillips tried to jump for the header as well, almost as if that was the intention, but it was Alisson – the one you least expected – who scored. It’s unbelievable. What a goal! It was a really, really good header as well.
I can’t imagine what he’s been going through, with his dad passing away earlier this year, so credit to him. You could see how much it meant to him and to the team in the celebrations.
After that, I felt like we would qualify for the Champions League. You could see in the game against West Bromwich Albion, the team weren’t at their best, but I believe that Alisson’s goal was a wake-up call.
I imagine the players saying ‘Okay, we can do this, everything is in our favour.’ It was just meant to be.
Liverpool are wrong to let Gini Wijnaldum leave
Gini Wijnaldum is an outstanding player and it’s a mistake by Liverpool to let him go, and even more so because he’s going for free. I wouldn’t even sell him if he still had a contract this summer.
I believe that he’s a player who will always perform, he always does so well. He’s been in the best moment at the club over the last five years, he’s been with Liverpool for almost as long as Jurgen Klopp.
Gini has been unbelievable and I don’t think he’s moving for money, he’s gone for years on the contract, that’s the reality. It’s not about money.
Reports in the media say he’s going to sign for Barcelona after they met his terms and, to be honest, I don’t know why Liverpool have a problem with giving him what he wants. For example, James Milner is still at the club at the age of 35 and is still performing so well.
Gini is always available and never lets the team down. I suffered with injuries myself, and you can be as good as you like, but the most important thing is to be available as often as possible. That’s another really good attribute about Wijnaldum – he always played.
The decision to leave has nothing to do with him, in my opinion, I don’t believe he wants to leave. Where are you going to go where you’ll be more happy than in Liverpool? He’s already used to the club, the city and the fans.
In Barcelona, he’ll have better weather and better food, but in terms of football, I don’t believe he would give up the chance to work with Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, where he plays every game and wins trophies.
It’s time for Naby Keita to move on
There is a reason we paid big money for Naby Keita, you can see the qualities in the player, you can see the type of player he is. But the style of football we play is very, very difficult for the body – it’s very demanding.
Maybe if he was playing in another team, with less focus on possession and less intensity in play, maybe he would get injured less. The demand from Klopp to our players is massive, and Keita has shown that he’s not able to cope.
I don’t believe that is going to change, so we should get as much money as we can for him this summer and cut our losses. We had many players ahead of Keita this season: Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner and Thiago.
He’s been out for most of the season and when you’re playing for so many important trophies, you need your best players available. I would rather have worse players in the squad that are always available than Keita, because that’s what we need – players that actually can perform.
But then we have to wonder how much Leicester City, who have been linked with a move for the midfielder, will actually offer, with the ongoing pandemic and after missing out on Champions League football.
Liverpool don’t have the squad to challenge on all fronts
Every single title is difficult to win, it doesn’t matter what it is. The Premier League and Champions League are always more important, but the reality is there are another two trophies we can lift each year.
I don’t believe Liverpool takes them seriously enough – the owners don’t spend the money to have a deep enough squad to challenge for all four trophies. Look at Manchester City, they have at least two £30m-plus players in every position. It’s impossible to compete.
If you want to complete, you need to spend. And for us, the club needs to step forward this summer, even with the ongoing pandemic situation.
What are City going to do? They’re going to go into the market and spend, I’m certain they’re going to spend big on a world-class striker that is going to stay there for many years.
Sometimes you have to spend £80m on a player and there is a chance it won’t be a success, but with someone like Erling Haaland, there is a big percentage it’ll be a success.
Teams like City and Chelsea have spent money when they are winning, and they sign players like Haaland. With Gini gone, Liverpool need to sign a player that is of the same level to compete with Thiago and Hendo.
If you want to compete at the highest level, you need two class players in every position, the club needs to know that. I don’t want Liverpool to become a club that wins a trophy every four years, when we could win one every season.
Trent, the world’s best right-back, can’t be ignored
I think Trent Alexander-Arnold will get called up for England this summer, I don’t believe Gareth Southgate will leave him out.
He’s been brilliant in so many games over the last month or so, he’s honestly been fantastic. I will be very, very surprised if he’s not playing for England in the Euros.
But listen, it’s good for us as a club if he stay. He’ll get to rest and come back for pre-season.
He’s the best right-back in the world – maybe not this season, but for the last two seasons before that. Players underperforming is normal, they drop their form at some point, but to get back to your best is very, very difficult.
When England didn’t call Trent, he probably thought ‘You know what? It’s true – I’m not playing at my level – I’m going to shut everyone up,” and that’s what he did. After he didn’t get the call from England, he got better and better.
I hope he retires at Liverpool because, for me, at the level he’s playing at, and don’t forget he’s still so young, he’s the best right-back in the world.
Spurs should let Harry Kane leave
Daniel Levy is very unlikely to sell one of Spurs’ most important players to a Premier League competitor, but I believe many clubs will be interested in Harry Kane this summer.
Manchester City should be interested, I’m not sure but I’d hope Liverpool are keen, but Manchester United will probably be interested too.
I think Kane could play for any club in the world, and a team like Real Madrid could come for him this summer, but I wonder whether he’d want to leave the Premier League.
He’s from England and knows the league well, has been at Spurs for many years, even when they weren’t winning trophies, but it’s hard to see Levy allowing it to happen – that’s my doubts on Kane’s potential summer transfer.
If it were up to me, I’d try to get as much money as possible for Kane and move him on, if he does want to leave. And if he does, then fair play, he’s been at the club for so long now and they’ve not won any trophies.
And if Spurs do sell to another Premier League club, I hope it’s Liverpool. But I believe it will be either Manchester City or United, because they have more money to spend.
What Liverpool should do this summer
My honest opinion on Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and these types of players at Liverpool is that they’re great players, but they’re not going to push the starting eleven as far as they need to be to challenge on all fronts.
I always look at Manchester City, when they didn’t have Sergio Aguero, they had Gabriel Jesus, so the team didn’t miss him that much – and that’s the problem with our team.
Apart from Diogo Jota, I don’t think we have a anyone that can compete with the front three. Even with Roberto Firmino, who I think didn’t have his best season, there isn’t anyone who can fight for his position.
If you don’t have a big enough squad, it’s very difficult to compete. If Liverpool were just playing in the Premier League and not in Europe, I would say what we have is enough.
I think we need a new right-back, because – and you have to assume the worst, as I often do in life – if Trent was out for three months, who can you play in that position that you trust? Neco Williams needs experience.
It’s the same at centre-back and left-back, I can’t tell you what I think about Kostas Tsimikas because we didn’t see him! And if Andy Robertson was out for two months, who would you player there?
James Milner? Good player, obviously, but you need a proper left-back to support Robbo and fight him for the starting position.
As well as a No.8 to replace Gini, I think we also need a new No.9 this summer; someone who is of the level of Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane.
Luis Suarez and Atletico Madrid
I spoke to Luis Suarez just yesterday through WhatsApp to tell him how happy I am for him after winning La Liga, because he shouldn’t have been treated the way he was by Barcelona, certainly not a player of his quality.
Barcelona have got Joan Laporta back as President now and I believe it wouldn’t have happened if he was there last year. It was a massive, massive mistake to let Luis go.
I’m not a magician, but I just knew he Suarez was going to do so well with Atletico. Obviously, I didn’t expect them to win the league, but I thought he was going to do so well because he’s got that Uruguayan blood.
When you make the circumstances very difficult for him, it actually makes him angry and he plays even better.
I know Luis very, very well and I’m so happy for him and Atletico, I’m also just happy someone else won La Liga, not Real Madrid or Barcelona.
I believe Suarez will stay put, like he’s been saying from the start, but he would actually be a really good signing for Liverpool! But I don’t think he will, he’s happy in Spain and his family are happy there too.