John Barnes is grinning like a Cheshire cat with the backdrop of three Christmas trees already up in his home on the Wirral. He is pondering a question over how Jurgen Klopp’s team of superstars compares to the great Liverpool side he played in.
‘Well, I’m 60 years old now and I feel it every time I bend over to tie my shoelaces or walk up the stairs… so I’d be on the bench,’ he laughs. ‘When I was 59 I felt 50, then two days later I’m 60. The psychological aspect of having a six before my age… I’ve got to get my head around that!’
Barnes is here to talk about Liverpool and England but it’s hard to chat to the former forward without first talking about his other love… rapping. The star of Anfield Rap and World In Motion has a new track out, a rap – or wrap – about recycling Quality Street wrappers.
‘I get stopped in the street by kids but it’s not because I was a footballer,’ he says. ‘They come up to me and say, “You’re that man from the rap”. Everyone bangs on about the England one but I reckon the Liverpool one for the 1988 FA Cup final was just as cool.
‘It got to No 3 in the charts. Craig Johnston at Liverpool was crazy and wanted us to rap for the Cup final. It wouldn’t happen these days… imagine Mo Salah beat-boxing! This new one and the Anfield one were a bit of fun but the New Order one was a proper fantastic tune.
Liverpool legend John Barnes insisted his former club can challenge on all fronts this season
The ‘refreshed’ Reds are taking on Manchester City in a crunch clash on Saturday lunchtime
Mail Sport’s interview comes after Barnes reignited his rap career and teamed up with Quality Street to encourage people to recycle their rappers (and wrappers) over the festive period
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‘Listen, there were a few alcoholic beverages going round one day and Keith Allen said to me, “Let’s write a rap”. Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) was there, Peter Beardsley had a go, but I did it. You’ve got to hold and give but do it at the right time!
‘The song is iconic, young people don’t know I’m a footballer but know I did the rap. The only bad thing was we didn’t foresee how big it was going to get so we didn’t sign up for any royalties! We just split a small fee between 25 of us.
‘This new one for Quality Street is a bit of fun for an important campaign. We were inspired by Biggie Smalls and P Diddy’s Mo Money Mo Problems and did it in a psychedelic dome. Christmas is my favourite time of year, we always get in the same pyjamas.’
After talking about No 1 hits in the music charts, Mail Sport now asks if Barnes’ former club Liverpool can finish No 1 in the Premier League this season, with the Reds one point behind leaders Manchester City going into Saturday’s crunch clash at the Etihad Stadium.
‘Liverpool can challenge on all fronts. We’re very close to the top in the league, FA Cup we’re in the top two or few to win it. We are favourites to win the Europa League and still in the League Cup. I expect us to push Manchester City all the way this year in the Premier League, though.
‘Last season was a transitional period in terms of age and position. We couldn’t get the right midfielders so we didn’t buy for the sake of it. We had a lot of forwards like (Cody) Gakpo, (Luis) Diaz and (Darwin) Nunez but the midfield was getting past their best.
‘We trusted Jurgen so much and knew he would get the midfield situation right. Now (Alexis) Mac Allister and (Dominik) Szoboszlai have improved us immensely. The age and balance of the team is much better, it’s refreshed and we can push City again.
‘But the game at the Etihad is huge. To be the best you’ve got to beat the rest. We can push them all the way but they’re a fantastic side. I remember when we finished second on 97 points. Was that a failure? Of course not.
Barnes, 60, is perhaps as well-known for his rap in New Order’s 1990 smash hit World in Motion as his impressive playing career (pictured in the video)
The ex-England star hailed Mohamed Salah as one of the biggest legends in the club’s history
He also heaped praise on the way Jurgen Klopp reshaped his squad during the summer
‘Mo (Salah) won’t score as many as he used to but that’s because Darwin is in the middle now, whereas it used to be Bobby (Firmino) who was more a creator than a finisher. But Mo has stepped up with more assists, he is super.
‘Mo is right up there with the best now in terms of Liverpool legends. Kenny (Dalglish) and Stevie (Gerrard) had longevity. But if Mo stays for a few more years, he will finish right up there with the legends.’
Speaking of legends, Barnes played – and rapped – with a few in his time so when asked to name a five-a-side team of former team-mates, he politely asks if he can make it six-a-side to fit them all in!
‘Bruce Grobelaar in goal. Steve Nicol and Alan Hansen at the back. Glenn Hoddle and Stevie G in midfield of course, have to include both of those. And again an easy one, Ian Rush up front. Kenny Dalglish as gaffer and I’ll be on the bench!’