In the summer of 2016, Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey retired from professional football after over 20 years as a top flight striker, that played for seven clubs and making 62 appearances for his country in the process. We spoke to him about his career overall and put some tricky questions his way about the current state of affairs at Liverpool Football Club.
Liverpool’s faltering title aspirations and a Brazilian schemer who is only set to make matters worse. How do Liverpool’s front three of Mane, Coutinho, Firmino (And Salah) compare to Sturridge, Suarez and Sterling?
Wow, that is tough. It’s a difficult question because obviously they are so different. If you look at Sturridge, Sterling and Suarez in their prime that was a forward line that was feared by everybody in the league. Everybody wanted to be like that front three. Suarez has gone on to do some phenomenal stuff for Barcelona and I have to say they’re the better ones out of the two. But it’s close.
How do both of those front threes weigh up compared to Heskey, Owen and Fowler?
We never played as a three. The thing is now you have a front three whereas you used to have two up front. But it’s not really a front three but more like a lone striker with two pacy wingers. So it’s difficult to compare because we used to have an understanding; we built up partnerships. We understood when to go short and the other would go long and you would dummy the ball and know the player was there. It’s different now.
Daniel Sturridge is obviously a great goal scorer; does he need more regular game time? Does he just need one goal to get going? Or is it the Liverpool system that simply doesn’t suit him?
He needs more games and any player would say the same. That’s when you get the best out of yourself and enjoy your football. He needs that right now but Liverpool are obviously not giving it to him so it’s a difficult time for him.
With the system footballers are very adaptable so I don’t see why it should be a problem for him.
Tottenham v Liverpool this weekend – how do you see it going? Can Liverpool get anything from Wembley against a very solid Spurs side? What’s your prediction?
Tottenham haven’t really been blowing people away at Wembley have they so it’s a case of Liverpool going there very confident and getting something out of it.
What are your opinions of the Coutinho transfer saga? Obviously great that Liverpool have managed to hold on to him, but do you think he will move to Barcelona at the end of the season?
When the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid – and even Liverpool themselves – are linked to players then players seriously think about it. So I’m not surprised that Coutinho is considering it. He is close to some who play there and a number of Brazilians have represented them over the years so that’s where he’s thinking of plying his trade next. There is always that chance that he might go in January because if they come back with another offer his head will be turned again.
No, never. The fans were always brilliant with me. The media have to write articles and talking points but for me it didn’t bother me because within football no-one was saying that. Only the media and for them the game is to sell as many copies and make as many talking points as possible. When you’re in the game you understand it and know what’s going on.
Back when Liverpool signed you, you reportedly signed a new deal with Leicester so they got more money for the deal. Showing great loyalty to them for bringing you on as a player. Care to shed any light on this?
I did sign a new deal just before I left. Whether that was for them to get more money I don’t know. You have to remember that this was my hometown but at the same time I was a Liverpool fan. My uncle was a Liverpool fan so I followed him a lot. When they came in I was thinking at some stage I’ve got to be looking at climbing up that ladder. Being at home was great but I wanted to fulfil some dreams as well.
What key areas do you think this current Liverpool need to address in January to cement a top 4 finish and who do you think would have an impact?
It goes without saying that defensively they’re not as sound as they could be. I don’t know if it’s personnel or if it’s not fully understanding the shape of their defending. When you look at the old Arsenal sides they would devote whole training sessions to their defensive shape. Everyone says it is personnel but only time will tell when they get someone else in and if it stays the same.
Where do you think Liverpool will finish this season?
It’s a difficult one because they’re really falling adrift of the leaders and they’re now nine points behind Manchester City. The top four is a must but whether they can do it is another thing.
It’s up there with the best ever international performances. It didn’t start off great going one-nil after six minutes but to then regroup and get everything going again was great. That’s not easy to do when you’re in their back garden. To score five was just phenomenal.
Do you feel you fulfilled your potential as a player, or was there anything you’d wish to have achieved in your career?
Winning a trophy with the international team. We came closest in Japan in 2002.
Are you still playing, what do you do nowadays to keep fit?
No I’m not still playing but I do a bit of general exercise. I used to do a bit of training with a local team just to get out because when I came out of the game I felt mentally I didn’t want to fall completely out of it. It helped being around players even for a local side. It helped mentally. I did that for a year and a half and I’m okay now. Now I just go down to the gym.
Messi and Ronaldo are 2 names constantly being compared to you. Will any of them ever live up to your standards?
I wish! One is just an out-and-out dribbler and can create everything on his own. The other – Ronaldo – needs his team-mates though he’s unbelievable in the air and he’s okay at free-kicks!
A lot of Liverpool fans want to know, can you play centre back?
I’m too old for that now!
Read the full interview with Emile Heskey, including his thoughts on Coutinho’s Barcelona transfer saga exclusively on 888Sport.