Michael Owen: Xabi Alonso must snub safe bet Bayern for Liverpool, Foden is Prem’s best player and I feel vindicated after claiming Kane wrong to leave Spurs

Speaking to BetIdeas.com, ex-England, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle and Real Madrid star Michael Owen doesn’t think the frontrunners to replace Erik ten Hag, should he leave Old Trafford, will excite the fans.

He also predicted Liverpool vs Manchester City would end in a 1-1 draw, and dismissed Gary Neville’s suspicion that some Italian teams in the early 2000s were using performance enhancing drugs.

Full Transcript

Question: Graham Potter is the favorite for the Manchester United job with Thomas Tuchel in the running, are either a good fit for the job?

Michael Owen: “I can see why Graham Potter and Thomas Tuchel have been mentioned but I don’t think it’s the most amazing list of available managers out there at the moment when you consider all the big jobs that could potentially come up for grabs in the summer.

“If I was a Manchester United fan I would want somebody that is going to play and set up something in a distinct way and work towards that. There are lots of managers out there that have an identity in terms of style of play. If I was a Manchester United fan that is what I would want.

“They’re too inconsistent, you never know what team is going to turn up, you never know what style of play is going to occur in front of your eyes. Manchester United fans are used to the biggest name out there so they might be a little bit underwhelmed by Tuchel who didn’t have a last great job or two, so maybe his stock is slightly damaged. On the other hand Potter was sacked by Chelsea so to some people they’ll think, hang on a minute, if he’s not good enough for them he won’t be good enough for us.

“But I have liked Potter’s style of play over the years and I’m sure he’s gained great experience and of course if Dan Ashworth ends up being in control at Man Utd, that’s a relationship that’s worked well in the past. As I say, there are not many names jumping off the page at the moment.”

Q: Manchester United take on Everton next, how do you see that game going? 

MO: “It’s obviously a huge game for both teams, it’s at Old Trafford so United have that home advantage but this is the thing, normally you’d just say home win but it looks dodgy to me. I’d hate to say Manchester United were guaranteed to win this.

“Everton have actually had some good away results this season and they’re not totally sure about what’s hanging over them in terms of more points being deducted, so they can’t rest on their laurels even though there is a bit of a gap now they have got some of their points back.

“But they could get deducted again and if that is the case, then they need to accumulate as many as possible quickly so it’s a huge game for Everton. I could see it being a draw, a 1-1, I just can’t be confident in Manchester United at the moment. They’re just too inconsistent.”

Q: Liverpool host Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday, how do you predict that going?

MO: “Liverpool vs Manchester City is such a big game. There is such a high standard that even at this stage, the point advantage for Liverpool is so huge when back in the day it wouldn’t have felt like much at all, now you see the point advantage as one big result or slip-up while the clock is ticking in terms of the amount of games left.

“If Liverpool don’t lose then they do have to go to Old Trafford and they have one or two sticky games but if they don’t lose, then City are playing Arsenal with points to be dropped there, I think it would be a huge shift in their title chances.

“At the moment I would still say that Manchester City are the favorites but absolutely any result can happen in this game. Liverpool are virtually unbeatable at Anfield and have been for many, many years now, but then you have got the best team on the planet going there.

“But City haven’t got good results at Anfield all the time and you have Arsenal sitting in the background lurking, and will probably beat Brentford and be top of the league by the time Liverpool vs City kicks off. It’s just building into the most brilliant title race.

“I honestly would hate to predict that game at Anfield, it could be absolutely anything. I just wonder if both managers, if they were offered a draw now, would take it. Probably Klopp would even though he has the Anfield advantage, just to keep City at arm’s length.

“As a Liverpool fan I think I’d take a draw at the moment, I’m predicting 1-1.”

Q: Phil Foden looks set to play a huge role for Manchester City in that game, is he the best player in the Premier League at the moment? 

MO: “On form, Phil Foren is probably the best player in the Premier League right now. Phil Foden is fast developing into a world-class player. They’ve gone so slowly with him over time. He’s 23 now and I was looking at his numbers, someone like Bukayo Saka for example is younger than Foden yet played 25% more games than him.

“They’ve gone slowly with him and protected him, never sent him out on loan. I think Phil Foden would’ve been a great player regardless and I think he’s got the capability of being one of the best in the world.

“I was working with Paul Scholes and he said he thinks Phil Foden can go down as the best English player ever, that’s how much he rates him and he is of course a good judge of a player. That’s the type of player we’re talking about. This is a seriously talented boy. Seriously talented.

“If he can translate that form to an England shirt and win a trophy in his international career then Scholesy could be right, he could go down as one of those. He certainly is going to do it domestically.”

Q: You received some backlash for saying that Harry Kane was wrong to join Bayern Munich, do you feel you’ve been vindicated?

MO: “I suppose it’s my job. I appear on the TV and I analyse football to give my opinion, sometimes a strong opinion. Sometimes you’re lukewarm on some things but sometimes you feel strongly.

“I felt strongly about Harry Kane. I know I made a lot of headlines especially in Germany where they didn’t like what I said, but I wasn’t being disrespectful to Bayern Munich at all I just couldn’t understand why.

“I couldn’t understand why. From a point of strength from Harry Kane, if he was that desperate to win things then he had to position himself to get out of Tottenham at some point. But he had done that with only a year left on his contract.

“To go to a league which is the third or fourth best in Europe, I just didn’t agree with it and am I now vindicated? In a way yes because I can’t see them winning the Champions League, I don’t think they’re good enough I said that ages ago.

“And as it’s happened they’re probably not going to win the Bundesliga either. I wouldn’t say it’s embarrassing but it’s not gone to script. Put it that way. However, on the flip side Harry Kane has continued to break every record and smash goals in for a team that aren’t doing so well, so from his point of view he can hold his head up high having gone to a new league and done really well.

“But as we know it’s a team game, but the whole point being him having a young family and a house being built in Wentworth, he’s an English lad that is going to live in England for the rest of his life, the whole point of him going out there was to win some trophies.

“He was sick of not winning things and it’s going to be a painful one to swallow this year and you can only assume he’s going to have to stay there for another year and try to win something. He can’t come back empty handed.”

Q: Xabi Alonso is the front runner at Liverpool but if Bayern go in for him too, does he have a huge dilemma on his hands?

MO: “Definitely. It’s a big dilemma for Xabi Alonso. Real Madrid is another possibility in the future but it looks like unless he stays at Leverkusen then it’s a straight fight between Liverpool and Bayern and you can see the pros and cons for both.

“He’s not been a manager long so I think the safer option is going to Bayern Munich. Although they’re not going to win the league this year because of him at Leverkusen, it’s almost guaranteeing a league title with Bayern winning eleven in a row before this season.

“Straight away the team will be back to winning the league, it’s virtually a given. So for his progression, his stock is only going to go absolutely through the roof if he makes that safe move to Bayern.

“Liverpool is a dangerous move. Following Jurgen Klopp is going to be so difficult. They don’t play in the style of play of Xabi Alonso at the moment, they play a different style, so it might not be that easy to convert. Or he might just be a great manager that can coach in different ways.

“But we’ve seen with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and how those clubs went through a lot of pain. We’ve now got a sustained period of success at Liverpool under Klopp and the next manager can’t do better than that so the only way is down maybe?

“It’s a dangerous, risky move and the Bayern Munich one is a safe option, with his credibility probably going through the roof, and then he can have his pick again should he need it. It’s a really difficult one at the moment and I can see pros and cons for both clubs.”

Q: Do you think he should take the risk and choose Liverpool?

MO: “The thing is in life, certainly in football, you can have all these best made plans and then comes the unexpected. I look at my career and thought I was going to play for whoever, and all of a sudden you’re offered something else and you think that it might never ever come again.

“When Real Madrid asked me to play for them, I knew I was never going to get asked again so what was I going to do? It’s alright thinking about taking it step by step and building and maybe waiting on his move to Liverpool, but I’m sure Steven Gerrard thought that when he was at Rangers.

“People thought Aston Villa might be a stepping stone but things didn’t go as well and all of a sudden he’s not really in the running for the Liverpool job. It’s alright plotting a perfect path but you know what, life is never perfect and if the opportunity comes to manage Liverpool how the hell do you say no given his affinity with the club?

“I understand it, we’ve debated it with ex players over who Alonso is going to choose, but if anyone had any ambition in life then you have to keep striving to be the best and going to bigger clubs and winning leagues and Champions Leagues.

“With all due respect, and it’s incredible what Leverkusen are doing at the moment, but they’re not going to win the Champions League on a consistent basis or be one of Europe’s elite.

“He has got to move at some point and it looks like the two obvious ones are Bayern and Liverpool and as I say, you could be waiting forever for the perfect time to take over at the club so sometimes you just have to go for that gut feeling.”

Q: Gary Neville caused a bit of a stir recently by saying that in the early 2000s, that he came up against some teams from Italy that he felt were not clean, is that something that ever went through your mind?

MO: “Never, I never normally listen to the radio but I was driving somewhere the other day. I think I was picking my daughter up from athletics and for some reason the radio was on and people were debating it.

“I think a journalist was saying that the only reason that more footballers have not been caught is because the testing is rubbish, this is probably why I don’t listen to the radio. I honestly almost smashed my radio and phoned up the channel.

“You wouldn’t believe how stringent the testing is. Even when I was playing about 15 years ago we had people turning up to training regularly for random checks before games and after games. You could hardly get home after finishing a game dehydrated and sat in the stadium for three hours because you can’t pee and it’s virtually happening every single game.

“You have all these spot checks and you had to write out a diary every week of where you were going to be for every single minute of each day. And if you’re not there, let’s say my kid needs picking up and I’m going to do it, if they turn up and you’re not where you said you were going to be at home, let’s say, I’d get a big mark against my name. If you get three then you would be banned. It’s the most intrusive thing in the world that they do.

“I’ve never seen or heard of anybody taking anything in my life and I’ve got nothing to hide, I’m not stupid, I can see how people would get a slight advantage by taking something but football is so much more about intelligence and skill. Yes about being able to run fast or whatever but for the punishment and minimal gain? The game is about the brain. Why aren’t all the 100m runners in the Olympics footballers, because there is much more money in the game? It’s much more fun surely, if it’s not just about athleticism.

“So I’ve never really believed it. I’m not daft enough to think it doesn’t happen in real isolated incidents but I don’t believe it’s widespread at all and anybody that says the testing is rubbish and all the rest of it, that’s the most flimsy and uneducated comment in the world. 15 years ago it was really intrusive and borderline ridiculous, I can’t imagine it’s more slack now.

“I’m not denying Gary Neville, he might’ve thought somebody was running a bit further than he was at the time but I’ve never seen anything or heard anything in my time, and I think the testing it pretty damn robust, personally.”

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