After recent spells as coach with Jamaica and Tranmere Rovers, former Liverpool and England star John Barnes has turned his immediate focus to media work. But the ex-midfielder still has his sights firmly set on management, telling FIFA.com that he is open to any managerial position, no matter how challenging.
The 47-year-old began his playing career at Watford but made his name at Liverpool, winning two league titles and two FA Cups during his time at the club. Capped 79 times by England, he appeared at two FIFA World Cups™, in 1986 and 1990.
In our exclusive interview, Barnes also discusses the return of his former manager Kenny Dalglish to Anfield, his FIFA World Cup memories and his thoughts on the best player in the world.
FIFA.com: What are your thoughts on Kenny Dalglish’s return to Liverpool? Can you understand why he went back?
John Barnes: He is a football man, he loves football. It is a match made in heaven; it is a perfect fit – Kenny and Liverpool. He is the only one who could have galvanised the fans to bring everyone back together, supporting Liverpool in the right way, meaning supporting the manager and players and everything, so hopefully he will be there next year. However, they still need to improve the squad by investing. [They made] two great signings in [Andy] Carroll and [Luis] Suarez but they need more investment and with Kenny being there next season, hopefully, we can have a push for the Premier League.
If asked, would you help him at Anfield?
It depends how he wanted me to help. I want to manage, so if it means managing in League 2, I do not want to go and be a reserve team coach or a youth team coach anywhere, regardless of whether it is Liverpool or a smaller club. I want to be in charge, I want to be a manager so if it means me going to a smaller club that is what I will do.
What are you doing currently?
At the moment I’m doing a lot of media work, although the long-term aim is to get back into football: coaching, managing, somewhere, anywhere. I know I’m not going to get a blue-chip job in football, but I’d love to get back on the international scene. Even if I get a job here in football, it will be in League 1, League 2 or other lower division clubs. I am willing to go, and I have worked in Jamaica before, so I would be willing to look at most opportunities anywhere in the world.
I want to be in charge, I want to be a manager so if it means me going to a smaller club that is what I will do.
Did you enjoy your time with Jamaica?
Jamaica was good, but I’ve enjoyed everywhere I've coached. Tranmere was good; unfortunately the results after a while did not go our way so I lost my job. But if you want to be a football manager, you have to be prepared to go anywhere really. You cannot say you are going to wait for the right job, and they have to have ambition and money to spend. Few of us have that luxury.
You attended the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. How did you find the experience?
It was wonderful. In fact, I'm in South Africa every month now that I have a contract with SuperSport, doing all the Champions League football for them out there. I know how popular football is in Africa and all over the world. It was a fantastic occasion for football and Africa. So as much as I am disappointed that England did not get the hosting rights for the World Cup in 2018, I am quite happy for it to go around the world. So I am happy that Qatar has got it, because I know how football-mad they are in that part of the world. Football belongs to the world – so, I am supporting football in any country wherever the World Cup goes.
What was your favourite FIFA World Cup match?
First of all, as a player, it was Argentina in 1986 because Diego Maradona, in my opinion, is the greatest player who ever lived so to be on the same field as him was a tremendous honour. But as a fan, my best one was 1974, West Germany v Holland. I played football in Jamaica growing up and West Germany was my favourite team. My dad bought me my first pair of football boots – Adidas Gerd Muller – so I supported West Germany and they won in 1974, I watched it in the national stadium. That is my best World Cup memory as a fan.
Which players do you enjoy watching at the moment?
Messi, for me, is a fantastic player. The biggest compliment I can play Lionel Messi is his respect and humility, and subordination to the team at Barcelona. As much as he is the greatest player in the world, he respects his team-mates. If the subs come on or he is not playing, you can see that he has that relationship with them. Rather than being a superstar player, as he is, he sees himself as just a normal part of a team, an integral part of a team. That is why, for me, Barcelona are the best team in the world and Messi is the best player.