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Row Of Colours

Markus Babbel: Bellingham’s Big Ego, Ronaldo Should Call it a Day & Why Klopp Could Become England Manager

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Markus Babbel: Bellingham’s Big Ego, Ronaldo Should Call it a Day & Why Klopp Could Become England Manager

Here we bring to you an exclusive interview with Germany and Liverpool legend Markus Babbel which is brought to you by our partners at Bet365.

The 51-year-old Euro 1996 winner has offered his insight on numerous football topics, such as England’s chances at Euro 2024, how Harry Kane is perceived in Germany, Jude Bellingham’s big ego, why Cristiano Ronaldo should call it a day, Vincent Kompany’s recent move to his former club Bayern Munich and why he believes that former Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp could move into international football.


Q: How has Euro 2024 as a tournament been received so far?

Markus Babbel: “I think it's been a brilliant tournament so far. We have had so many fantastic games. We have sensational supporters in the stadiums. The stadiums are beautiful in Germany and maybe the only little thing that I can criticise is that if you have to travel by train - then it's a disaster.”

Q: What has gone wrong with train travel in Germany?

Markus Babbel: “We have the same problems that supporters from the other countries now have. It's a disaster if you have to travel by train. They're always delayed, they cancel the trains.

“It’s a big problem at the moment and the government have said that they are working on that, but it takes time. So if we host a tournament in 20 years again, then it's a good chance for the supporters to come at the right time”

Q: Is Germany the best country to host an international football tournament?

Markus Babbel: “Germany is the best host for a major tournament, it’s fantastic. Especially in this difficult time that we have at the moment. You can see that all the supporters are cheering and celebrating.

“They are happy to see their own team, proud to be part of this tournament. We have brilliant stadiums, we see fantastic games, so everyone is happy. Of course, after three to four games now, a couple of nations are not happy now, but for the rest it is a fantastic tournament.”

Q: Has the throwing of the plastic cups been a problem for the hosts?

Markus Babbel: “With the throwing of plastic cups, normally in the Bundesliga it's not a problem. You often see beer flying around, cups flying around, people celebrating.

“For me, this is not a big issue. I have more of a problem with the guys who are running on the pitch to take a picture with Cristiano Ronaldo or someone else. That is what gets on my nerves, if some cups come on the pitch, oh well.”

Q: Has work been done to stop more pitch invaders stopping games?

Markus Babbel: “In terms of stopping pitch invaders, I think it's very difficult to identify who is going to try and come on the pitch. You have 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 crowds in the stadium and it's not easy.

“Of course it can be dangerous if someone is totally mad, doing something stupid. You never know. Of course this is quite dangerous but I'm not sure how you can handle it.”

Q: What has the reaction been to Germany’s performances?

Markus Babbel: “First things first, Germany are into the knockout stages which is fantastic after going out in the group stage of the World Cup in Qatar.

“The first two games went very well but the most important game was against Switzerland - because it was the type of game that we will get in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, that’s how tough a game it was.

“Switzerland are a top side with really good players in this squad and they know how to play these kinds of knockout games.

Q: Has anyone surprised you from the Germany squad so far?

Markus Babbel: “There has been no big surprise for me. They all play a good style of football, on a good level. They have brought in their normal performances and now it's time to get a little bit better.”

Q: Could Niclas Fullkrug be a success at Manchester United?

Markus Babbel: “It depends on how you want to play. If you know you have to play with crosses then he's the perfect player because he's very good in the air and so strong.

“Fans love him because he's normal. He's not a superstar. He's not doing crazy things. So the supporters love him and I think it's a fantastic option to have.

“Kai Havertz is very skilful. He's a different kind of striker. Niclas Fullkrug is the typical number nine. He's not skilful but he’s so strong in the box and he’s a perfect number nine.

“I'm not sure if he's this good to play for a massive club like Manchester United, but he can definitely play in the Premier League.”

Q: Could Maximilian Mittelstadt be a success at Arsenal?

Markus Babbel: “Maximilian Mittelstadt has been unbelievable. He was at Hertha Berlin when they got relegated and when Stuttgart signed him everyone asked what the hell are they doing?

“Since then he has been fantastic. Unbelievable. Then it was asked if he would be good enough for the national team and he’s done fantastically.

“Defensively he isn’t the strongest but he’s so talented, so skilful and on the ball he is brilliant.”

Q: Where will Germany and Bayer Leverkusen star Florian Wirtz go next season?

Markus Babbel: “Florian Wirtz has two options, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.

“He's an unbelievable player. I'm not sure if he wants to go to the Premier League because it's a very tough league. I think he's the perfect player for Real Madrid and Spanish football, technique-wise.

“I think he's brilliant for the La Liga. I would be surprised if Real Madrid are not interested in him or Bayern Munich.

“Having said that, it's good for him, well, it's smart for him that he's staying at Bayer Leverkusen for another year. He knows that they have a good team and he’s still young.

“He's the star in this team but if you go to Bayern Munich or Real Madrid they already have so many top players, he has to be ready for that.”

Q: Which German player would be your dream signing at Liverpool?

Markus Babbel: “My dream signing for Liverpool would be Jamal Musiala, he's an unbelievable player. I love to watch him.

“I always sit in front of the television and ask, how good is he? And he's still so young. Him and Florian Wirtz, it’s fantastic to watch these guys playing football. I wish they could go to Liverpool, but sadly I can't see it happening.”

Q: Who are the underperforming teams and players at Euro 2024?

Markus Babbel: “Most of the top players in top teams are performing, the team that stands out in a bad way is England.

“Maybe France also, but in the game against the Netherlands, they had so many chances. They were very solid in the back, they created many chances.

“France look more ready than England at the moment.”

Q: Which fans have been the best received in Germany?

Markus Babbel: “The German people love Scotland fans. They are so friendly, they are so lovely, they create an atmosphere outside the stadium.

“They are unbelievable, German fans want to start a petition to get Scotland fans to play every year, it was gutting for us to see Scotland go out in the group stage, it would’ve been great to see them go further.

“The best ambassadors from Scotland were the supporters, it was unbelievable what they did here in Germany.”

Q: Has anything been said of there being one much harder side of the draw?

Markus Babbel: “In terms of the two different sides of the draw, it is what it is. No one in Germany is bothered because we saw how difficult it was to play against Switzerland, then look at Austria too - it won’t be easy for them.

“But it is a massive chance for England, but how they’re playing it really won’t be easy to reach the final.

“The Swiss are so strong and have such energy and confidence, they are all very tough games.”

Q: Are Austria the surprise package of the tournament?

Markus Babbel: “I haven’t been surprised by Austria. In Germany we know how good they are. They played us in a friendly game and beat us easily 2-0 while not giving us a chance to score.

“They have many important players but no stand out superstars, David Alaba is one but he’s injured and played a key role as an assistant to Ralf Rangnick.

“They have a very strong group of players but that wasn’t a surprise for us in Germany.”

Q: Now Julien Nagelsmann turned around his reputation, could he go all the way?

Markus Babbel: “If Julian Nagelsmann can lead Germany to Euro 2024 glory then he will be one of the all time greats.

“Spain are a bit better than us, we have to accept that. But we have seen our team giving everything on the pitch and that’s all we can ask for.

“For four or five years we were playing like England are playing now, we have always had good players but no team spirit. We have that spirit now and that’s all the supporters can ask for.

“When you see performances like England's at the moment, it’s hard for fans when they can’t have a beer because then they have to watch it with a clear head. In Germany we are okay if we lose as long as we have seen the team give 100%. If the other team are better than we have to accept it.

“Germany is a football country. We love this game. We are getting record numbers now for the television stations because everyone is watching because we see a team that is fighting and giving everything.

Q: Who are your standout players of the tournament so far?

Markus Babbel: “I see many good players and many good teams, look at Georgia, they have been fantastic like nobody expected. Look at Slovenia and Slovakia in the knockout stages too.

“From the top teams. I would say Spain is performing. In terms of players, we can see from this tournament that there is only one Cristiano Ronaldo and one Lionel Messi. They have done unbelievable things in the game.

“Looking at Spain, Lamine Yamal and Fabian Ruiz have stood out.”

Q: What would the German people think of Cristiano Ronaldo?

Markus Babbel: “Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest name in the tournament and everyone in Germany is constantly looking out for what he is doing.

“He has been very unlucky not to score because he is working hard, look at the goal he assisted for Bruno Fernandes too, that was a big surprise because you expect him to score.

“What a career he had, amazing and still he's playing at such a high level for a Portuguese national team, one of the best national teams in Europe.

“I just hope he finds the right time to say goodbye. That's the only thing I fear because he's been unbelievable for the rest of his career. He was so important for a generation of kids who saw him playing and a big supporter of him because he brought them into football.

“I really wish and I really hope that he finds the right time to say goodbye.”

Q: Could Cristiano Ronaldo still be playing at the 2026 World Cup?

Markus Babbel: “It's different for Pepe playing in the back to Ronaldo up front as a number one striker. I don't want to see him on the bench or only coming on for 10 minutes. I don't want to see that.

“It would be surprising if in two years' time he's still in the national team, but I really hope that he finds the right time to say that's it.

“He has done enough for Portugal and now it's the time for younger ones to have a chance.”

Q: What do nations need to get over the line in Euro 2024?

Markus Babbel: “Like in Euro 1996, you have to be mentally strong to win a major international tournament. It is all in the head.

“Of course you need a bit of luck as well. That's what we had in 1996. If Paul Gascoigne’s toe is a bit longer then the game is over and we’re out.

“So you need a bit of luck. But you need the talent, you need the belief, you need the mental strength in your head to be firm and then you have a massive chance to win the trophy.

“There are six or seven nations there that can win this trophy and in the end the mentally strongest one will win it.”

Q: Can Germany handle the pressure of being hosts in the knockout stages?

Markus Babbel: “For Germany, it depends on how strong they are mentally. If they’re negative then the pressure will build up and they might not be able to handle that.

“I think it's a gift to have the tournament in your country. The supporters, they're all behind you. Everyone is in front of the television who's not in the stadium. Now everyone is in the garden with friends or alone in front of the television.

“So everyone is on your side. It is a fantastic feeling and it would surprise me if Germany can't handle it.”

Q: Would Germany have any fear coming up against England?

Markus Babbel: “Germany wouldn’t have any fear coming up against England. England might well have the best players but they have been so poor.

“If you see how England play, you get tears in your eyes. I’m not sure what they are trying to do, if you look at Trent Alexander-Arnold he is incredible for Liverpool and then for England you’d think it was his twin brother.

“There are top players, but no one is performing, England can’t be worse than they were in the group stage. I wish that Germany would have played against England because it was the easiest draw if you go by the group games.

“If they perform like they can then it will be difficult to beat them, but at the moment they look awful.”

Q: Who is to blame for England’s poor performances?

Markus Babbel: “Both the England players and the manager are to blame, but if the players are not performing then it is the job of the manager to change things up to find players who can play together.

‘Cole Palmer played a fantastic season with Chelsea, Anthony Gordon played fantastically for Newcastle. You have so much talent on the bench, so take one out if he's not performing or if he's saying that he can’t play in a certain position.

“The job of a manager is to find the best XI for their country.“

Q: What have you made of Jude Bellingham’s performances?

Markus Babbel: “The body language from Jude Bellingham, my God, what's going on with him?

“Maybe he thinks that because he won the Champions League that now he’s the absolute superstar of England? Come on. If I was playing with him, I would kick him up the backside.

“He's a top, top player. There's a reason why he won the Champions League with Real Madrid because he's an outstanding player, but when I see his body language, I go mad.

“He's still a young player. If Harry Kane was doing it then maybe. He has played so many years in the Premier League and was often the top scorer. Okay, I’d understand that.

“But, Bellingham? Come on.

“He's doing well with Real Madrid but when you’re playing for England you have to give everything. If you don’t want to run, that's not good enough for me because I expect so much more from this kind of player.”

Q: Are German fans aware of Harry Kane’s ‘trophy curse’?

Markus Babbel: “Harry Kane is so unlucky because he has performed fantastically. He was unbelievable in his debut season with Bayern Munich and still didn’t win a trophy.

“He came at the wrong time to Bayern Munich because there are many problems at board level and there are many problems on the pitch. They're trying to change it now, but the supporters love him because he's one of the best strikers in the world and he decided to come to Bayern Munich.

“He is a gentleman. Bayern Munich fans support him. They love him. Even in Germany as a whole they are saying, wow, what a top guy he is. He doesn’t act like a superstar star.

“Just like Jürgen Klopp, he is a normal one.The supporters see that he is a massive name, maybe the biggest name by Bayern Munich, but he is normal. He is one of us.

“So he has done a fantastic job for Bayern Munich and was very unlucky that he came at the wrong time, but you will see that there will be a lot of changes in the summer and we will see the direction that this great club is going.”

Q: What was the reaction to Bayern Munich appointing Vincent Kompany?

Markus Babbel: “It was a big, big surprise to see Bayern Munich appoint Vincent Kompany, because he wasn’t the first choice, six or seven managers said that they can’t or won’t take the job.

“Vincent Kompany was a big surprise to everyone, especially because people in Germany hadn’t seen much of him as Burnley manager.

“He has to follow two of the best German managers in Julien Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel after one of the worst seasons Bayern have ever had.

“But for him it's a good start because the board is changing the team, bringing new players in, selling old ones who maybe had played at the club for too long.

“So for him it's a massive chance to perform because you have top players, Bayern Munich still is a top side. So for him it is a massive chance to get a name to bring in his philosophy in the team and then you will see that it's a massive chance to win the league.

“In the Champions League you always need a bit of luck on your side, but it's a massive chance to create a name for himself with the highest level of managers.”

Q: Where will Jürgen Klopp end up next after leaving Liverpool?

Markus Babbel: “I don’t think that Jürgen Klopp will manage another club after Liverpool. I cannot see him at Bayern Munich or anywhere else. The only two jobs I can see him doing is the manager of England or the manager of Germany.

“He might need a break for a year or two but if a nation like England called him then he would have to listen.

“I can see him managing a national team because it is only once every six weeks and it’s not like managing a club every day which is 24-7 and is very tough.

“The only thing I can imagine is that he will be a national team coach but only for these two nations. Germany or England.”

Q: What would the German people think of Jürgen Klopp becoming England manager?

Markus Babbel: “The German reaction to Jürgen Klopp managing England would depend on if the German national team wanted him too. If he picked England over Germany then the fans would be very angry about that.

“The people love him, he’s the best manager we’ve ever had from Germany given his success with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.

“England have so many top players and I think the players would have so much respect for Jürgen Klopp and he would have a fantastic relationship with them.

“His relationship with players is one of his biggest strengths and he would be a fantastic manager for England.”

Q: What is your prediction for the final of Euro 2024?

Markus Babbel: “Germany will reach the final and against England would be the perfect final.

“England are not playing the best style of football at the moment but that can change, it would be a fantastic final for tradition, it is the highest level of football.

“It would be fantastic if Germany vs England was the final, it would finish 2-0 to Germany, of course.”