ex-Liverpool, Manchester City and Newcastle United midfielder, Didi Hamann, makes his views on the recent transfer business his former clubs have been involved in recent weeks.
The German pointed out that the signings of Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister may not be enough for Liverpool’s midfield if Jordan Henderson and Fabinho depart for Saudi Arabia. Newcastle United have recently bought Sandro Tonali from AC Milan for £55m, and Hamann now believes the Magpies have one of the best midfields in the Premier League.
Liverpool are reportedly trying to hijack Caicedo from Chelsea, is he needed with Jordan Henderson and Fabinho leaving? DH: “Liverpool need another midfielder if Jordan Henderson and Fabinho do decide to leave for what they’re being offered in Saudi Arabia. Moises Caicedo is a brilliant player, he fits the profile of a ‘ball-winner’, what Fabinho has been doing for Liverpool for years. If there is an opportunity to hijack the deal from Chelsea, then I think Liverpool should go for Caicedo. He would be another great signing for Liverpool’s midfield, alongside Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister.”
Jamie Carragher said on Thursday Henderson will face criticism after speaking out on LGBT issues. What are your thoughts? DH: “It’s a political issue. If Jaime Carragher spoke out on Jordan Henderson going to Saudi Arabia, then he has a right to do it. Footballers nowadays have a huge following and influence on social media. If footballers feel the need to speak out on any issues, then they were right to do it. Henderson, during Covid-19, was the driving force for donating money for certain groups of people in football. I respect Henderson for that, but Saudi Arabia in sports is a sensitive issue at the moment, that’s why I don’t want to comment.
Will Szoboszlai be one of the Premier League’s best midfielders? He’s been compared to De Bruyne, is that his playstyle? DH: “Dominik Szoboszlai could potentially be one of the Premier League’s best midfielders already. He has a very good eye for a pass and is technically very gifted. Szoboszlai has a great shot on him too, so it’ll be interesting to see who takes the free kicks now because Trent Alexander-Arnold will have something to say about that. The Premier League is a different game, it’s very physical compared to the Bundesliga. Szoboszlai retaliated a few times in the Bundesliga and got himself sent off, so he’ll need to adapt to the physicality and pace of the game in England. If he does adapt, he will be a brilliant player but he’s come for a huge price tag and will be expected to perform on a weekly basis, which is a different kind of pressure to what he had at RB Leipzig. Szoboszlai had Christopher Nkunku to help him out if he wasn’t at his best, so it’ll be different this time. “Szoboszlai could potentially reach Kevin De Bruyne’s level of a midfielder, but De Bruyne originally came to England and got a second chance at Man City, this will be Szoboszlai’s first chance in the Premier League. The team De Bruyne came into was already a title-winning side, whereas Liverpool have lost a lot of their players in recent years. Comparisons to De Bruyne won’t help Szoboszlai either, as that’s a very high standard. I remembered being seriously impressed by Szoboszlai when Liverpool played against RB Salzburg back in 2019 when he was 18 years old.”
Does Thiago get into this Liverpool team now Mac Allister and Szoboszlai are there? Should a Premier League side sign him, like Man United?
DH: “I’ve never been a big fan of Thiago Alcantara. He’s having far too many injuries and he couldn’t get in the Liverpool team last season when he was fit and when there was a lot less competition in his position. If someone else comes in like Moises Caicedo, Romeo Lavia or Aurélien Tchouaméni then the competition will be very tough. Liverpool have Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Stefan Bajčetić coming back too, who will all need minutes. I don’t see Thiago featuring too much next season, even if he is fit. “I’m sure there are clubs interested in Thiago, if he stays in the Premier League, he needs to join one of the top four teams who have a lot of possession, like Man City or Arsenal. The more possession you have, the better Thiago plays. He’s not the best player out of possession, there might be a market in Spain too. He’s been a decent player, not a ‘great’ player for Liverpool as some people have said. The physicality of the Premier League has gotten to him.
Due to last season, a lot of people are starting to say Mikel Arteta is as good or better than Jurgen Klopp, do think that’s nonsense?
DH “Mikel Arteta has nearly been sacked by Arsenal about five times in the last four seasons. Fans wanted to see him leave, frequently. Arteta has been at the club for four years now, somehow he’s been able to keep his job because most clubs wouldn’t have been that patient. In hindsight, it was the right call, of course. They’ve brought in three excellent players, Kai Havertz, Declan Rice and Jurrien Timber. Arteta is a good manager but you can’t compare him to Jurgen Klopp yet, he hasn’t won a title. Klopp won the first Premier League title in Liverpool’s history, been to three Champions League finals and won all the cup competitions he’s competed in at least once. The hardest thing is to go from second to first, and Arteta needs to do that, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to. I think Arsenal will compete, but we’ll see if they can stay ahead of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United.”
Levi Colwill is wanted by a lot of big clubs, what do you make of him? Should Liverpool sign him as the Virgil van Dijk successor?
DH: “Levi Colwill can be Virgil van Dijk’s successor. Colwill is the type of player Liverpool could really do well. He plays like a young player with an experienced head on his shoulders, he always seems to make good decisions. Van Dijk hasn’t been the same player since his big injury, it remains to be seen if he improves this season. Colwill would improve Liverpool. When Liverpool won the Champions League, it was their defence that set them apart from the rest of the teams, but last season they conceded far too many goals. Colwill would be a huge signing for Liverpool.”
If this is Salah’s last season, who do you see as his successor? Could Bukayo Saka be that man?
DH: “Mohamed Salah is 31 years old and still never gets injured. He has another three or four years at the top level, I can’t see why he won’t keep scoring loads of goals until he’s 34 or 35. I don’t see any reason for Liverpool to be searching for a new right winger any time soon. Bukayo Saka has just signed a long-term contract at Arsenal and he’s apart of a young team, so I can’t see Liverpool being able to persuade him to join anytime soon. But look at Salah’s stats, he gets compared to strikers like Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Ian Rush when he’s a winger. I think Salah has at least three more good years in him, Liverpool is his home now so I don’t see him leaving next year.”
Would Mason Mount have performed better under Jurgen Klopp than Erik ten Hag?
DH: “Mason Mount will do more for Man United than what he would have done for Liverpool. £60m is a lot for Mount, especially when Liverpool have players like Diogo Jota, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and even Cody Gakpo who can play in Mount’s position, even though some of them are different kind of players. I don’t think it would have been wise for Liverpool to sign Mount.”
Josko Gvardiol is rumoured to be around £86m, is he worth it?
DH: “Josko Gvardiol is a very good player, but £86m is Virgil van Dijk territory. If you see the impact Van Dijk had for Liverpool, that’s what you expect at that price for a defender. Gvardiol did very well for RB Leipzig, he was reliable and great in the air. The price tag is healthy, Gvardiol would improve Man City because he’s a top-class player, but he won’t be cheap. “Levi Colwill should be on Man City’s watchlist too, he’s a cheaper alternative to Gvardiol. Man City have Ruben Dias, who is probably the best defender in the league, John Stones, Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake, who are all very reliable and do their jobs very well. If Gvardiol did join, where would he play? He would enhance the competition, but I’m not sure Man City need him, so maybe Colwill is the better option if he costs less money.”
Arsenal have been linked with Joao Cancelo and Julian Alvarez in recent weeks, is it blatant that they’re trying to be Man City 2.0 since they have Arteta, Jesus and Zinchenko already?
GH: “It does feel like Arsenal are trying to be Man City 2.0 now they’re being linked with players like Joao Cancelo and Julian Alvarez, they showed how far they’ve come last season. Competition for places is key, especially in the Champions League next year, Arsenal will need a bigger squad to be able to play top opposition every three days. Man City and Liverpool are used to it, and I’m sure Mikel Arteta is well aware of the extra players he needs in his team if he wants to compete on all fronts.”
What can Benjamin Pavard bring to Man City? Is it a downgrade from Walker?
DH: “Benjamin Pavard would be brilliant for Man City. He’s a great footballer who can almost play anywhere. His favourite position is centre back, but he can also play right back and also play the role that John Stones plays in the midfield because Pavard is very clever and very technically gifted. Pavard can nick a goal too. I think Pavard would be a bigger loss for Bayern than Kyle Walker will be for Man City. Pavard would be excellent for Man City. “Walker did very well against Vinicius Jr. and lives for those battles against the top wingers in the world. Man City would be losing that profile in their team. Walker is also one of Man City’s top players and has been for years, he identifies himself with the fans and team, he’s that figure that Man City needed when they were ever in trouble. He’ll be a big loss to Man City on and off the pitch.”
Kieran Tierney is still at a stalemate with Arsenal, do Newcastle need to rescue him?
DH: “Newcastle need more players in their squad because they’re in the Champions League now. Kieran Tierney is a very reliable player who performs well every time he makes an appearance for Arsenal. Obviously, those chances have been limited now, so I think he’d be a very good player at Newcastle. He’s too good to be a squad player and needs to be starting, which he can do at Newcastle this season coming.
With Tonali, Guimaraes and Joelinton/Willock in midfield, where does that rank in terms of Premier League midfield?
DH: “Sandro Tonali, Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton or Joe Willock is not far off the best midfield in the Premier League. The benchmark is Man City when they had Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri. Tonali is a very technical player, and at Newcastle he has the quality players around him to flourish. I really like Tonali, and he adds physicality, pace and determination to this Newcastle midfield who were already great in those aspects. It feels like the whole Newcastle team is very good now, they have every basis covered and it will be great to watch them this season.”
If you had to rank Musiala, Bellingham, Saka, Foden and Pedri, in what order would they be from best to worst?
DH: “If I was to rank Jamal Musialia, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Pedri, my order would be; Saka, Foden, Musiala, Bellingham and then Pedri. “Saka is a different class to the rest, he showed what he can do when he carried the Arsenal team at some points last season. He’s also carried the England team for long periods too. Foden is just behind him, Musiala too. Bellingham was not very disciplined at Borussia Dortmund and got to do what he wanted, he won’t get away with that at Real Madrid so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs while disciplined. I’m on the fence with Pedri, I haven’t seen him enough.”
Havertz to Arsenal, where will he play and do you think he’ll succeed?
DH: “I think Kai Havertz’s best position is up front, just off the main striker. I think he’ll play with Gabriel Jesus, up top. Arsenal are a team that likes to pass the ball a lot more than Chelsea, and I think that will suit Havertz. We will see the real Havertz that we saw at Bayer Leverkusen when he was 17 and scoring important goals. I remember when he was still in school and Havertz scored a goal that stopped Bayer Leverkusen from being relegated. Havertz is the player to watch out for, he’ll be a different player this season coming. “Havertz would play better with an out-and-out number nine, someone like Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane or Robert Lewandowski, as they keep defenders occupied which gives Havertz the space he needs. Gabriel Jesus drifts wide, but we’ve seen how brilliant of a player he can be and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them link up well together.”
Schweinsteiger said Pep Guardiola’s influence in Germany made the national team worse, do you see that happening to England or do you not agree with what Schweinsteiger said?
DH: “There are a lot of top managers in England. When Pep Guardiola came to Bayern Munich, it was a massive deal. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s comments were talking about when Guardiola joined, there was a lot of emphasis to play ‘tiki-taka’ football which the Bayern team could do, but the German national team couldn’t. Schweinsteiger was saying Guardiola made Germany forget their core talents in organisation, discipline and pressing to get the ball back. There are other issues in the German national team, we don’t have as many quality players compared to the England team. We lost 2-0 to England in the Euros when it could’ve been four or five, England rested some players too which we couldn’t do and we still weren’t anywhere near as good as England’s second team. Germany has a big issue in the way we’ve developed young players poorly or not in the right way. I think England should take this as a warning too, Guardiola will probably change the DNA of the national team but when he leaves, the national team will need something to fall back on. Germany have won four World Cups because of our discipline and we knew how to do our roles, we also had one or two outstanding players who would make a difference. Now we want to play out from the back, with full-backs who can create, centre-backs who can travel with the ball, we won the 2014 World Cup with four centre-backs! Now we don’t have anything else to fall back on if we can’t play out from the back, but we’re not good enough the way the national team plays at the moment. We’ve forgotten about the things that made the German national team strong.