Joleon Lescott exclusive interview

The ex-England star discusses Pep Guardiola, the quadruple and his previous clubs.

Joleon Lescott | Sportingbet

MANCHESTER CITY

On Pep Guardiola...

Guardiola was quick to refute links with Juventus and insist his future lies at Manchester City. Do you think he will stay at Manchester City?

"I don’t believe Pep Guardiola will move on until he has dominated Europe with Manchester City. You could say it’s unfinished business as he bids to take their football to a global level. Pep has created so much success at Manchester City in such a short space of time and I believe there’s more success to come.

"Everyone associated with the club wants Guardiola at Manchester City and there would be a lot of disappointed fans, staff and players if he left. I don’t expect Guardiola to look to move anywhere until his contract is up in two years, at least."

Guardiola has come out and said that Manchester City are far behind Barcelona. What do Manchester City need to do to bridge that gap?

"Pep said that Manchester City are not currently quite in the same level as Barcelona. That said, I believe Guardiola is the man to take Man City to that level, but he needs to continue the current successes for a few years for them to be recognised as hitting the standard that has been set by Barcelona.

"Man City have got a lot of great players, but they need to be have the perfect team mentality for them to be considered as successful as Barcelona. Manchester City will need to be a consistent and powerful threat in both the Premier League and Champions League and they have definitely been heading towards that in the past couple of years."

On introducing VAR…

"The Premier League needs VAR to be introduced so that we can see some clarity on issues such as Manchester City’s offside goal against Watford. I think we have seen that VAR will get more decisions right than it will wrong and there will still be an element of subjectivity that will keep fans interested. The World Cup was a perfect example of how VAR can work well for football, although it did show that there are some risks involved in relying on the technology."

Pep Guardiola | Sportingbet

On the season so far…

Do you think that Man City will go on to win the title?

"I expect Manchester City to go on to win the Premier League. It is interesting that they’ve been able to overtake Liverpool so quickly. I don’t think it’s a surprise that Man City have won the games they have, but rather that Liverpool have dropped points in recent weeks. They haven’t performed well in the games they should have done and Man City have been able to capitalise on that. Earlier on in the season, the title could have been Liverpool’s to lose but they threw the opportunity away with a bad run of games where they didn’t achieve what they should have done. It’s now in Manchester City’s hands and I don’t expect them to let it slip.

"Retaining the Premier League title will be Man City’s biggest achievement and to become the first side to do it since Sir Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United is another camel off their backs in the city."

Could Man City be the first team to do a domestic treble or a historic quadruple?

"Man City are the only team that are capable of winning the quadruple and they would have to be regarded as the best team that has ever been assembled should they go on to do that. Guardiola will be looking to retain the Premier League again this year, but he is an ambitious man and that is being reflected in the direction Man City are heading this season.

"Manchester City have possibly been a touch fortunate in the draws for each of the cup competitions, but you can only beat what’s in front of you. The quality of the team and lack of complacency from the squad has been important in not allowing Manchester City to be victims of an upset in the way Tottenham and Liverpool have.

"If you look at the way Man City have played this season and previously, you can see that they more than justify the title of one of the best teams to have ever been created. Guardiola has got the most out of players that are already exceptionally talented and they will be taking that success back to the Etihad trophy cabinet at the end of the season."

Do you think Man City are the favourites to win the Champions League?

"I think Man Utd have potentially cleared the way for Man City to win the Champions League when they knocked PSG out of the tournament. I believe PSG were the biggest threat to Man City’s potential success in the Champions League this season.

"Man City could still slip up in the latter stages of the tournament through lack of experience within the squad because not many of the Man City players have as much experience within the Champions League semi-finals. It would be a shame as they are definitely ready to win the Champions League."

Man City are playing Swansea in the quarter finals of the FA Cup this weekend. Do you think Man City are favourite to win the FA Cup?

"Man City will be favourites to win the FA Cup, despite Man Utd still being in the competition and facing a fair opposition in Wolves. But Man City will go to Swansea expecting to win and with a fighting mentality. They know they can’t afford to be complacent in games like these.

"Swansea have a chance of winning the game as they will up their game plan to try and match the favourites, but Man CIty will power through to win with the skill and ambition that Guardiola has driven through the squad."

On Man City’s squad…

Who has been your player of the season for Man City so far?

"I think Sterling is in contention for Player of the Year and not just for Man City, but for the entire Premier League. Sterling has come on leaps and bounds this season, after the successes of the World Cup and he still hasn’t reached his full potential so that is something I’m excited to see from him. I enjoy watching Sterling play and he is a great player who can find pockets of space and hit the back of the net. I think if he carries on playing as he is then he is definitely in contention for Player of the Year.

"Sterling doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the work he puts in on the pitch and he has received a lot of criticism from the media, but he has shown he can rise above that. The pace and technical abilities that Sterling possesses is something that more people should recognise. Sterling just goes about his business and lets the football do the talking and that speaks volumes when he has the ability he does."

Vincent Kompany is going to get a testimonial game. How big has Kompany been for Manchester City?

"Kompany is the best central defender in the Premier League when he’s fit and he has definitely got another few seasons left in him. He’s had injuries but once again this year you can see the contribution he’s making. He is ambitious and a perfect match to Man City so I believe he will want to finish his career at the club.

"Kompany will no doubt discuss his options with Man City and whether there is room for him to continue within the squad. Guardiola has an excellent team at the moment, but Kompany has the ambition, experience and skill needed to steer the team forward for the rest of this season and into next season. If there is no room for him going forward at Man City, then his testimonial game will be a great occasion to celebrate a true club legend."

Vincent Kompany | Sportingbet

Aguero is leading the race for the Golden Boot. Do you think he is a potential Player of the Year?

"Aguero deserves the Golden Boot and Player of the Season this year. Aguero has been consistent throughout the season and during his whole career at Man City. He is one of the best strikers to ever perform in the Premier League.

"Aguero perhaps doesn’t get the credit he’s due. For me, he should have been in the Premier League’s Team of the Year practically every season he has been at Man City, but he won’t care about the credit and he doesn’t seek attention in the media."

Who would be your Player of the Year if you had to choose one name right now?

"Player of the Year can’t be decided without anyone winning a trophy, but I think it has to be Sterling or Aguero if Man City go on to win the Premier League. If Liverpool win the Premier League, it will be a toss-up between Alisson and van Dijk because it will be their defensive solidarity that has laid the foundations for them to win their first title in many years. I think success can only be measured on the players who achieve their goals."

How many Liverpool players do you think would get into City’s first team?

"Both Guardiola and Klopp will each be happy with their own team and their players suit their styles of football. I’m not sure I’d take a single one of Liverpool’s players for Man City’s team, but it’s fair to say both have put together great squads.

"From a Man City perspective, I have been very impressed with Laporte this season, who has arguably made a similar impact to what Van Dijk has at Liverpool. "

On transfers…

Gundogan has so far rejected contract extension offers from City. Do you think he’s looking to leave?

"Man City will want Gundogan to stay because he is a perfect replacement for Fernandinho. On the flipside, Gundogan could look to move for more game time at the end of this season because no-one is a guaranteed starter at Man City."

Man City paid £50m for Benjamin Mendy and he’s spent practically two years injured. Do you think that’s a concern for Man City?

"Of course it's a shame for Mendy and for the club that he’s spent much of the last two seasons injured, but we’ve seen enough to know what a top player he is when he’s been fit. I think the club should keep Mendy and he’s of course very popular in the dressing room and he keeps the feel-good factor among players who aren’t on the pitch every week. Hopefully we’ll see Mendy back on the pitch playing to his full potential again before long."

Do you think City could be looking to sign Wan-Bissaka this summer?

"Wan-Bissaka is an exciting young player with his career ahead of him. He’s certainly impressed for Crystal Palace this season and inevitably, as with any young player performing well, some top teams will be linked with him. Wan-Bissaka looks to have the attributes of a player that could go on to play for a top club. I enjoy watching him as he is a fullback who enjoys defending more than attacking. He enjoys a 1v1 challenge and that’s an excellent quality."

Do you think City made a mistake in losing Jadon Sancho?

"Jadon Sancho deserves credit for making a choice to go abroad in order to get games because he wasn’t getting enough opportunities at Man City. He had the chance to further his career and going to Germany has definitely done that for him and gained interest from top clubs.

"It’s possible Jadon Sancho could be looking to come back to England and play in the Premier League, but it’s impossible to know where his future may lie."

Isco hasn’t had much game time at Real Madrid and is regularly tipped for the Premier League. Do you think he’d be welcomed at the Etihad?

"As with any player not getting game time, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Isco is unhappy being left out at Real Madrid and he would be a good addition to Man City’s squad. He’s an excellent player that still has so much potential that Guardiola would work to develop. However, Isco would have to accept he wouldn’t be a guaranteed starter in a similar way that Mahrez has had to adapt to this season.

"Man City will be looking to strengthen their squad in the summer, but it has to be right player to fit seamlessly into the team’s style of play and the operation they have set up there. The owners have created this format over the past 10 years so Guardiola and all of the players need to fit into this system to achieve global dominance for Man City."

Isco | Sportingbet

Who do you think would be a perfect replacement for Fernandinho?

"Tanguy Ndombele could be an ideal Fernandinho replacement at Man City when the time comes. I think he has all the potential to go on to become a great player and achieve great things. I think players in Fernandinho’s position tend to get better with experience, but I think Ndombele is a player that could be a good fit."

Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus have spent plenty of time on the bench this season. Do you think either of them might eye some regular football elsewhere?

"Jesus and Sane are both unbelievable young talents that Man City are very lucky to have in their ranks, but you’d hope there’s a way to keep them at the club.

"Jesus and Sane have both spent a lot of time on the bench this season and have to deal with their own frustrations. Sane has recently missed out on Germany’s World Cup squad and Jesus will look at Rashford thinking he should be given the same game time, but he isn’t going to be in ahead of Aguero. Man City know how good they are and appreciate the talents they do have, but it’s a case of managing expectations and keeping them involved in enough big games to keep them happy."

EVERTON

On Marco Silva…

Do you think Marco Silva is achieving what he set out to do at Everton?

"Marco Silva has perhaps not achieved his goals at Everton this season and the board and fans will invariably be a little disappointed. Silva would have been looking to create an identity for Everton this season after so many years floating around mid-table, but it doesn’t seem to have happened quite yet, due to the lack of consistency at the start of the season.

"Going forward, Everton need to show their identity – the way they play, the way they want to win and the players they want to recruit. Everton should have faith in Marco Silva to deliver the results and identity they are craving to push towards a Top Six position in the future."

Marco Silva needs 12 points from the remaining 8 games to match last year’s points total. Do you think the board will be looking at replacing Marco Silva if he doesn’t achieve this?

"Everton may not match last season’s points total, but they have never been in a relegation fight at any stage this season and that is an improvement. Everton fans will no doubt want stability in a manager and hopefully they’ll get it."

What do you think would be considered a successful season for Everton?

"Everton fans would be hoping to at least be in the Top 10 this season. Anything less than Top 10 will be a disappointment for everyone involved. The club has the infrastructure in place to climb into the Top Six and achieve Champions League football, but they need to collectively come together to succeed.

"Everton will be looking to recruit the right players and give enough support to the manager so that they can become a club that wins trophies while fighting for the Top Six."

Silva and Klopp have both compared the Merseyside derby to a World Cup Final. Do you agree?

"The rivalry between Liverpool and Everton is huge but the most recent derby was far bigger for Liverpool because they had everything to lose. Klopp was playing mind games when he said in the press that it was a bigger game for Everton. Everton fans will look back and wish they’d have done more to beat Liverpool and be the team to put the brakes on Liverpool’s Premier League title winning dreams."

On new stadium plans…

Everton are looking at a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. How important do you think it is for their development as a club?

"The proposed new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock is integral in recruiting new players and maintaining Everton’s status as a Top 10 and eventually progressing towards the Top Six. Everton need to try and learn lessons from the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham in balancing having a new stadium with the ability to buy new players and perform well on the pitch.

"Goodison Park is not a fun ground to play at as the opposition so Everton would want to look to recreate that atmosphere at the potential new site in Bramley-Moore Dock."

On current players…

Who has been your player of the season for Everton so far?

"Idrissa Gueye and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are two players who have stood out for me at Everton this season. Gueye for his pure talent and ability and Calvert-Lewin for the responsibilities he has taken on at Everton from such a young age.

"Calvert-Lewin hasn’t scored goal after goal but the sense of responsibility he has been given at Everton has shown how much potential he has to go forward and forge his path. With his England credentials underway already, Calvert-Lewin is already on the path to success and I’m excited to see how he progresses."

Idrissa Gueye | Sportingbet

Michael Keane has been in great form in recent weeks. Do you think he deserves a place in the England squad?

"Michael Keane has been on great form this season and is definitely of England quality. I think he’s definitely on par with defenders who have been in previous squads such as Dunk.

"I personally think Chris Smalling should still be a part of the England squad and I don’t understand why he isn’t involved. He has competed for trophies and in the Champions League at Manchester United for many years. That is a level of pressure and expectation that deserves immense credit."

Pickford has been questionable in form this season. Do you think he’s still England’s best goalkeeper?

"Jordan Pickford has made mistakes this season, but the lack of competition means that he will remain England’s first choice goalkeeper. Jack Butland is down in The Championship and hasn’t done enough to pose a threat to Pickford’s position as the number one. Pickford proved his worth in the World Cup which means he will stay in the side unless a new goalkeeper emerges."

Why hasn’t Mina managed to make an impact at Everton?

"Mina had a difficult start to his career at Everton, but will look to make a real impact next season. Mina has found it difficult to cut through against players like Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma, but has shown promise when he’s managed to get a game.

"Having to start the season later due to the World Cup will have impacted Mina and his lack of Premier League experience will have put him on the back foot from the get go. Mina has done well in the games he’s played in an Everton squad that has become quite consistent."

Will Everton look to make Andre Gomes permanent this summer?

"I’m not sure if Everton will sign Andre Gomes on a permanent deal. He hasn’t started as many games as he could have done recently in comparison to the start of the season when he was playing so well and getting games in week in, week out.

"Andre Gomes won’t be the only option on the table for Everton to sign this summer and ultimately the decision will be with what the Everton board say the vision for the club is and whether Gomes fits in with that."

Idrissa Gueye has handed in a transfer request to try and push through a move to PSG. Do you think he’s going to leave?

"Everton could struggle to keep hold of a huge talent such as Idrissa Gueye. Gueye will look to move to Paris Saint-Germain and take the next step in his career.

"PSG would be a greater opportunity for Gueye and he will be knocking on their door this summer if they aren’t already in talks right now. I wouldn’t discredit him for making the move because it’s step up from Everton, Gueye is French speaking and the move could be a good fit."

Everton paid big money for Tosun. Is it time to cut their losses?

"Everton could look to move Tosun on this summer after a disappointing season at Everton. Tosun will be frustrated to have not succeeded at Everton, but the Premier League is not for every player and it looks like Tosun will join the list who weren’t able to make it work. He possibly hasn’t scored enough or performed well enough to justify him staying at Everton, particularly after the big money the club spent to sign him."

Cenk Tosun | Sportingbet

Everton sold Lukaku to Manchester United two years ago and are still yet to replace him. Who do you think they could replace him with?

"Everton have missed a striker since they sold Lukaku to Manchester United, but it’s always going to be difficult to replace a player of his calibre. Everton have needed to roll the dice on a few players to fill that goals gap and it hasn’t worked out so far. Hopefully that will change this summer."

WOLVES

On Nuno Santos…

Nuno Santos has done an excellent job this season. Do you think Wolves have hit the Premier League glass ceiling as being "the best of the rest"?

"Nuno has done a remarkable job this season and is in contention to win Manager of the Year over the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. You would expect to see Manchester City and Liverpool top of the Premier League, but you wouldn’t have guessed Wolves would be sitting as best of the rest. Nuno has transformed Wolves and deserves such huge credit.

"Wolves would definitely be aiming for a Top Six position next season if they sign a few new players this summer. Seeing Wolves in Europe would be unreal, but they do need a bigger squad that can pose a greater threat than they already do."

Wolves have had a great record against the top six this season and will face Man United in the FA Cup this weekend. Do you think Wolves will be confident?

"There is definite potential for Wolves to knock Man Utd out of the FA Cup this weekend. Wolves will face the game against Man Utd with an earned confidence after the way they’ve played against Top Six clubs in the Premier League this season. This weekend’s fixture will be a tough game for both clubs but Wolves will be as confident as Man Utd going into the game. Manchester United won’t be underestimating Wolves and they know they’re in for a very tough game."

Where do you think Wolves will finish this season?

"Wolves aren’t comfortable at 7th, but I think they will finish there this season. They won’t be sitting pretty throughout the remainder of the season, but they have got the ability to maintain the position through to the start of May.

"It’s going to be difficult for teams to catch Wolves because they have been able to win games that you wouldn’t think they were able to. The expectation wasn’t there for Wolves to perform well this season which has allowed them to go out and make the season their own, which has worked well under Nuno’s leadership."

Do you think there’s going to be pressure next season to repeat the success and go one step further?

"Wolves need to have a realistic expectation of what they can achieve in their second season in the Premier League. Wolves’ main job in the next two to three seasons will be to consolidate their place in the Premier League rather than attempt to steal the title from Man City or Liverpool.

"Even if Wolves finish 15th next season, it will not be a bad thing. The team needs to develop and grow together to form their base in the Premier League before they go trophy hunting. Wolves are looking to expand the stadium again and the last time they did that they got relegated so they need to be very cautious of their next moves and contemplate the bigger picture before making any rash decisions."

On current players…

Who has been your player of the season so far?

"Matt Doherty has been outstanding this season for Wolves but I have loved Conor Coady in every game he has played. Conor Coady is one to watch for Southgate when he’s choosing his England squad.

"Doherty and Coady both have the passion for the game that means they really throw themselves into the game and ensure they go through the line to get the results. Coady has been an excellent captain for Wolves and pushes the team forward every game."

Conor Coady | Sportingbet

The back three (or four) players have all adapted so easily to the Premier League. Did you expect them to be this solid after last season?

"The Wolves defence have created such a solid back line for Wolves and are a force to be reckoned with due to the trust and respect they have for each other. The formation worked so well last season and they’ve taken it up a gear this season to make it work in the Premier League.

"Working together as such a unit has meant that the trust, respect and recognition for these players almost comes naturally now and that will only improve over training sessions and games each week. There is no surprise that these formations have worked so well for Wolves as we saw it all last season with how successful the defence was."

Morgan Gibbs-White seems to be progressing every week and could be a future England star. Do you think he could be the next big thing for Wolves?

"Morgan Gibbs-White is the next big thing for Wolves and he could be a home-grown legend so I would like to see him to stay at the club and progress. He needs the support to perform and Nuno will continue to give Gibbs-White the platform to achieve success. I think it is only a matter of time until he earns international recognition.

"Gibbs-White is only 18 and has been with the club from an academy player like myself so it’s good to see Wolves continue to push young academy talent through the ranks. Gibbs-White needs to keep his feet on the ground and continue to progress with the club and before you know it, we will be talking about him for potential England call-ups."

Raul Jimenez has 12 Premier League goals this season. Do you think Wolves will be in trouble if they don’t sign him this summer?

"Jimenez’s effort, work rate and quality of goals is second to none and he deserves every single goal he scores. Wolves must do everything they can to keep hold of Jimenez, despite the size of the rumoured release clause in his contract at Benfica.

"Jimenez has contributed so much to Wolves’ season this year and it is plain for everyone to see what he has done this season. Nuno and his team must be chomping at the bit to get him signed up this summer. The pairing with Jota evidently works well for the style of play that Nuno wants to achieve at Wolves and that is something that you can’t put a price on."

Adama Traoré has been criticised a lot at the moment. Do you think he’s failed to meet expectations as the club’s record signing?

"Adama Traore needs to play consistent games to unleash his potential, whether that be at Wolves or elsewhere. There is still time for Adama to find his form but Wolves may consider loaning him out to kickstart that potential.

"Adama is the fastest player I have ever seen but I don’t think he’s found his place at Wolves at the moment. There is no doubt that Adama will be a top player but he isn’t getting the consistency of games he needs to achieve his potential at Wolves."

Wolves were linked with Tammy Abraham, but he seems to have settled into Villa now. Do you think Wolves will make another bid for him in the summer?

"Wolves won’t go in for Tammy Abraham again now that he is settled at Aston Villa. Abraham made his allegiances known in the January transfer window so I don’t think Wolves will want to look at signing him in the summer if he is happy at Aston Villa. There are plenty of other players who would interested in coming into Wolves so I think that boat has sailed now."

Ruben Neves has been linked with some big money moves this summer. How important do you think it is for him to stay at Wolves?

"Neves is a key reason why Wolves are in the position they are in this season so it is integral for him to stay with the club. He has quickly become part of the backbone of Wolves and that is not something that the club can afford to lose.

"Neves brings such an effective and crucial work rate to every game that Wolves play and will rise to the challenge of the Top Six clubs with ease so there’s no wonder that there is interest from these sorts of clubs to sign him up. "

On club rivalry…

You’ve played in three of the big derbies - the Black Country, Manchester and Merseyside. Which one was the most intense?

"Each derby game was intense in a different way but the one with the most to win or lose was the Manchester derby during the time I was playing for Man City. That particular derby was for the Premier League title which meant so much to both sides."

What are your thoughts on what happened to Jack Grealish last weekend?

"The incident with Jack Grealish was absolutely disgraceful and although the man has been charged with 14 weeks in prison, we need to see a minimum punishment rolled out throughout the country for this type of behaviour.

"There has been a lot of abuse this season, physical and verbal with various racial abuse throughout the season and this shouldn’t go unpunished. The people who take part in such disgusting behaviour should have a minimum prison sentence and if not prison there should be a maximum fine put in place to deter fans from feeling as if they can act this way."

Wolves have had a great record against the top six this season and will face Man United in the FA Cup this weekend. Do you think Wolves will be confident?

"There is definite potential for Wolves to knock Man Utd out of the FA Cup this weekend. Wolves will face the game against Man Utd with an earned confidence after the way they’ve played against Top Six clubs in the Premier League this season. This weekend’s fixture will be a tough game for both clubs but Wolves will be as confident as Man Utd going into the game. Manchester United won’t be underestimating Wolves and they know they’re in for a very tough game."

ENGLAND

Do you see Wan-Bissaka battling Alexander-Arnold for the right-back position?

"England have a lot of potential in right back position with Wan-Bissaka and Alexander-Arnold competing with the likes of Walker and Trippier. It’s frightening to think that some of these players might not go on to have the England career they deserve.

"I think the time will come for Wan-Bissaka and Alexander-Arnold, but it might be a bit too soon for them. I expect to see Walker and Trippier continue to battle it out, while Wan-Bissaka continues to earn his stripes and improve in the Premier League."

Declan Rice has chosen England over the Republic of Ireland. Do you think he’ll go straight into the team?

"Declan Rice would not have turned his back on his chances of playing for the Republic of Ireland without some confidence that he will be able to break into the England team.

"It would not be surprising if Declan Rice was in the England squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers after the way he has performed for West Ham. Rice deserves the call up to England and he will be an exciting player to watch as part of the England set up."

James Ward-Prowse has been on a great run of form at Southampton. Do you think he deserves a spot?

"Ward-Prowse has been on form throughout the season and it would not be surprising if he gets a call up for England, but that is based on his overall ability and not just a few stand out moments with his set-piece ability in recent weeks. Ward-Prowse has an excellent talent and is a completely unique player that Southgate will find highly desirable as part of the England set up for the qualifiers."

Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell have both been playing well this season. Who would be your first choice left-back?

"Luke Shaw would be my first choice left-back for the England squad right now, simply put down to his Champions League experience over Ben Chilwell. Shaw has the winning mentality of a club that is expected to win trophies and beat all opposition that is put before them. Shaw has got the extra edge to him after playing in Europe and he has been able to cut his teeth against a better quality of players."

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