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newsexclusive gus poyet interview

Exclusive Gus Poyet interview: Joao Felix worth more than £100m and Chelsea should break the bank, Graham Potter facing sack if they lose to Tottenham and Paul Scholes is best player I faced

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Speaking to, Poyet said:

  • Joao Felix is worth more than £100m and Chelsea should break the bank
  • Graham Potter could get sacked if Chelsea lose to Tottenham
  • Enzo Fernandes is a class act
  • Paul Scholes was the best I’ve faced with Roy Keane the toughest
  • Spurs derby wasn’t a big deal for Chelsea when I was at the club – but now it’s massive
  • Harry Kane is among top-three Premier League strikers ever
  • Giorgos Giakoumakis is right – Scottish Premiership is not stronger than MLS


On how much Joao Felix is actually worth and how Chelsea should break the bank…again!

GP: “We are talking about a £100m player.

“I knew a lot about Joao Felix when he went to Atletico Madrid and I thought he would be a spectacular addition to La Liga. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re playing in a team and a team needs to play a certain way for you to take advantage of that. So for whatever reason, he didn’t step up at Atletico Madrid for long periods. He would have good games, but he was inconsistent. Probably, it was not the style to suit his game.

“I think now the position he is playing at Chelsea, and the impact he has made, he has been impressive. He has been the player that I knew and I am pleased for him because it is always better for a player to find a way of showing his potential and how good he is. I’m happy for him personally, because he deserves that.”

On Enzo Fernandes arriving at Chelsea:

GP: “Enzo is a different matter; I knew him a little bit, but then when he started playing for Argentina at the World Cup, I was like, ‘wow’.

“I rate him that highly, and I knew why the price was so high and I think he has made an instant impact. However, I’m talking from experience here. Normally when you go to a new place, you are full of adrenaline and you are top.

“There is a moment, I don’t know when, some people have it after a month and some people have it after three months, that your levels start to naturally drop.

“So it all depends on how long your levels drop for that will determine your season. Maybe, because it is in the middle of the season, it will help him because he will finish and then start again in the summer.

“Normally, we all pay the price somehow after a period of time. It also depends on the team, how he is playing and whether they are winning if you can get away with it.

“It’s so important for a player with your first impact when you first join, and then you are not so new anymore so it goes away naturally. So it is all about how flat you go. Let’s see if he can maintain his good start with Chelsea.”

 On how Graham Potter can avoid the sack in his first season at the club: 

GP: “Win, just win. I always say that when you go to a place and want to impose your style and convince the players that is the best way, the only option you have is winning.

“Then the players convince themselves very quickly, because they are winning. The feeling is good, they look at the coaches and think everything is working, but when you’re not winning it is tough.

“It is different to Brighton for Graham. If you’re at the bottom and you can get a win every now and then, you can survive. Remember, the Premier League is 38 games.

“In the last 10 years, I am pretty sure with 38 points you will be safe. Meaning you can draw every game, or win one and lose one. But it is a big difference to Chelsea.

“At Chelsea, you have to win. On top of that, you have to win trophies! I know they changed the owner, but Jose Mourinho won two Premier League titles and they got rid when he stopped winning.

“Ancelotti and Conte were the same – as soon as you don’t win, you are out. That’s why, in my opinion, this game is much bigger for Chelsea than it is for Spurs.”

On how Chelsea’s owners may feel the pressure to sack Graham Potter

GP: “We don’t know, because I don’t know the owner and how he is going to work. But, when everything surrounding the team; the press, the social media, is talking about the Graham Potter situation, it gets to a point where it is natural that the owners think it is better to change because it is a problem.

“That’s a thing where coaches are paying the price. We are not only depending on the way we work, and our relationships and results, but also maintaining the publicity around yourself and the team.

“And I think this game, after the defeat to Southampton, I think the pressure has increased dramatically. As a coach, I don’t like it. I would love Graham to stay and make Chelsea play similar, maybe even better, than he did at Brighton. But he knows, and we all know, that you have to win.”

On why Chelsea should stick with Graham Potter:

GP: “First of all I want Graham to stay. I promise you, I really want him to stay and be a success.

“I think when you are in the position he was in at Brighton, it was the perfect time for him to go to another level. Now, he must take advantage of that. I want to say one thing that is very important for me; when Roman Abramovich arrived at Chelsea, things didn’t change straight away.

“Things started to change when Abramovich got together with Mourinho. When Abramovich arrived, it was Claudio Ranieri and he didn’t win a trophy with Chelsea and he spent £100million.

“So there is that connection between the two, there is a before and after at Chelsea with Abramovich and Mourinho together. So now, we need to see that connection between owner and coach to work together.

“There is an example, and I don’t think it is too dramatic, when they didn’t win many matches and Arsenal and Mikel Arteta were in a very bad moment. They stuck with him, now we are seeing the consequences as they are top of the league.”

On Chelsea missing N’Golo Kante during this tough spell:

GP: “I don’t know his injury, I know how long he has been injured for and how difficult it has been for him to recover.

“When Kante arrived at Chelsea, I said it and I maintain it – he was the best defensive midfielder in the world. Then you have that spell under [Maurizio] Sarri, where he played as an eight and he started arriving in the box and I wasn’t so sure about that because I still believed he was the best in his position.

“When we had Marcel Desailly, I remember one game where we didn’t have a left back and Ranieri decided to play Marcel as a left-back and John Terry as a centre-back and I totally disagree.

“If you have the best defender in the world at the time, play him as a defender! Play anyone at left-back, maybe JT won’t like this but he was younger, he was more adaptable than Marcel going to the left. This is a similar situation; Sarri wanted to play one way and he wanted to play Jorginho in that position instead of Kante.

“But Kante was the best, so that period didn’t help him. If he gets back to what he was, we are talking about an exceptional player so let’s hope that his injuries are completely behind and he’s fully recovered. Then, obviously, you would sign him and renew his contract no doubt.”

“But it has to work for both parties; the player and the club.”

On why Spurs need a win over Chelsea:

GP: “I think the first goal is going to be important, for different reasons, because it has been proven that it is different for Tottenham when they go ahead and it has been very difficult for Chelsea to score.

“So I think the first goal is going to be key. Apart from that, it is a derby that has got bigger and bigger. When I was at Chelsea, it wasn’t big for Chelsea – then it became bigger and then you almost had both sides going for the league and it has become more and more important for both sides.

“In particular, this one is bigger because Spurs are still pushing to be in the Top Four this season, and for Chelsea and the staff, it is massive.”

On London rivalries while playing for Chelsea and Spurs:

GP: “I didn’t understand it at the time, when I was at Chelsea I promise you in four years nobody told me this was a really big game.

“I know I’m wrong because they told me after I moved, but at the time I only wanted to beat Man United and Arsenal because they were winning the Premier League and I wanted to win the Premier League. So Tottenham was not our rival.

“Then I went to Spurs, and when I started getting abused, then I realised I was a bit naive there! But I went from a team that didn’t lose to Spurs for about 23 games and then I was on the losing side and I needed somehow to turn that around.

“It surprised me even more, because I promise you there is no way to compare for a Spurs fan or a Spurs player, than playing against Arsenal to playing against Chelsea.

“The game against Arsenal is massive for Spurs, that’s the real derby. You cannot have two big rivals, you have one. The biggest derby when I played here was in the north between Liverpool and Man United because they were the ones trying to win the league.

“This is similar, I played both games as a Spurs player and I promise you for Spurs, the biggest game is Arsenal. I always ask at Chelsea, ‘what is our derby?’ And people would say Fulham because they were around the corner, but they weren’t really there so we didn’t really have that specific one.” 

On whether Heung-min Son should start against Chelsea:

GP: “I think he will play, I think it has been a tough season for Son because he was up and down. He couldn’t score, he then scored a hat-trick and he was up and down at the World Cup.

“Remember he was the main man for South Korea there as well, and he’s played pretty similar to Spurs; one minute they look like they could win every game and then not the next.

“I think the difference between the two teams right now is that if everyone is available, we could pick the starting XI of Tottenham. But I don’t think we could make the starting XI of Chelsea and that shows the difference of where they are as a team. That gives you a little more consistency and that is the only reason why Tottenham is above Chelsea right now. More or less, the same players are playing and you get used to playing with some players, it is not the same.

“When you get used to playing with someone, it is easier. Also, sometimes one player works better for your qualities. This is something that becomes easier when you start playing the same team, most of the time.

“When you change constantly, how can you get used to this? We are not machines and that is why Chelsea are finding it difficult to get that consistency.”

On Richarlison’s form since the World Cup

GP: “I think the progress he made under Conte, right up until the World Cup, was nearly perfection.

“The way that Conte took him to be as a possible replacement for Harry Kane when he was not fit, or getting in every now and then in the wide positions, it was perfect.

“He was getting used to that role, the problem was after the World Cup. He’s not playing in the same way or in the same position for Spurs as he was before.

“Maybe, he thought when he came back he would have more minutes, but I think something has changed. But let’s hope he can get back because Spurs need him.”

On Harry Kane being one of the greatest Premier League strikers ever, but that he needs to win something soon

 GP: “He belongs in the top three, or top five. He has done something incredible, especially playing for so long in the same team. A team that doesn’t win trophies, which is something even more important because I always say, if you play for a top team that always attacks and they create 40 chances a game, put me in there and I will score 20 – and I’m 55 years old!“But put me in a team that arrives at the opposition box once every 30 minutes, and I am going to be useless! He has played in a team that has had good spells and bad spells.

“I have to be honest, when he scored 20 plus goals for that first season, I was one of the ones who said ‘let’s wait, it is one season.’ Then he scored the same the next year and he has been a machine.

“He has made very strong decisions on staying at Spurs, I can’t remember how many summers he has been linked with a move away. It is important because I, as a player, preferred to win trophies rather than qualify ten years in a row for the Champions League.

“He decided to try his best, all his career, to win something with Tottenham. That’s why he needs to be recognised as a special player, because there are not many like him that have stayed in that situation and accepted that he will try all his life to win a trophy at Tottenham.

“Credit to him, because it is not easy. We need to respect and hope, sooner rather than later, he wins something.”

On fellow Uruguayan Federcio Valverde being underrated for Real Madrid

GP: “I’ve tried to sum up Fede in one word before, and that one word is always ‘humble’. I think it was Guardiola that said top, top players need to be a little bit arrogant – not too much. I don’t think that Fede Valverde has this; he is down to earth, 100%, he knows his role and it shows the type of person he is and why he is like he is.

“Maybe he is underrated, but for the coaches, he is top – Carlo Ancelotti is showing that – because he can count on him for any position and that is something unique.

“I hope that we can start doing the same with the national team, because he was a little bit held back during the World Cup and you can see he needs that space to run and come back – he is a proper, proper modern box-to-box player and you have to use him like that.”

On how Rodrigo Bentancur is irreplaceable for Spurs:

 GP: “It’s bigger than what people think because when Conte signs someone, they are very specific players. And he signs midfielders with the characteristics that compensate for what [Pierre-Emile] Hojbjerg does on the pitch.

“He drives more with the ball, he arrives in the box, he can cover more of the pitch – there are plenty of qualities in Bentancur that you cannot see and easy replacement.

“There are other options, but they are totally different. For the functioning of the team, I think he was becoming a key part of the way Tottenham play and for the future.

“He was very important before the World Cup, he was outstanding! Now, the other players need to take that responsibility and be ready. Bentancur and Valverde – it is easy for the future of the national team for the next ten years!”

On the differences between the MLS and Scottish Premiership and why Giorgos Giakoumakis needs to realise this:

 GP: “When I read his comments, I took it naturally. I didn’t see any kind of surprise? It’s been Celtic or Rangers for the last 100 years, every now and then someone will have a great season.

“So from his point of view, it’s comparing the two leagues and asking who won the MLS Cup in the last ten years? There are so many names and options, so it should be more competitive.

“Now, remember that competition means that most teams are at the same level. That doesn’t mean that MLS is better than the Scottish Premiership. It’s different, difficult to compare.

“There are teams there who are playing in the Champions League and in MLS, they may compete against some Mexican teams.

“I think he was talking more about the fact there is not only two teams and I am excited about him and him pushing a change because it was good for his career. I really hope that it starts working well for him because we need him at the national team!”

On the best players he played against in the Premier League:

GP: “In terms of quality, I think the best midfielder that I played against was Paul Scholes.

“He had everything; he was technically gifted, he could run around the pitch, he could be nasty, he was commanding and he had everything. So he was the best in terms of quality because he was the best English midfield player.

“Now if you ask me who was the toughest, my first thought was Roy Keane because it was difficult to play against him.

“There is a different answer depending on the question! If you ask the best midfielder, I think Paul Scholes and the most difficult to play against was Roy Keane because he was tough and you needed to prepare yourself mentally for the battle.

“That was a special game when you play against Man United, as a Chelsea player.”

Liam Solomon
Liam Solomon
Liam Solomon

Liam is the Head of Sports PR for Betting Sites. He has over 10 years experience in Digital Marketing & PR, working in TV & Entertainment, Fashion, Technology, Sports & Betting. An avid Arsenal supporter, Liam keeps up to date with all things Football but loves everything Sports related. A number of Liam's Betting Sites interview & data stories have been covered on news sites including; The Sun, Daily Mail, Express, Mirror & Sportsbible.