Owen Hargreaves Uses Liverpool Example to Explain the Failings of England's Golden Generation

Juergen Klopp
Liverpool FC v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Former England star has used Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side to shed some light on why England's 'Golden Generation' never made it past the quarter-final stage of a major competition.

BT Sport pundit Hargreaves was talking to 90min about the relative abundance of young England players plying their trade overseas, a stark contrast to the times where he (and later David Beckham) were the only England internationals playing in foreign leagues.

"I think it's great that they're leaving their comfort zones," he said of the likes of Jadon Sancho, Ademola Lookman and Lewis Baker.

"Obviously Jadon has done unbelievably well, but it's not as straightforward as just going and playing and then it'll all work out; you've seen that with Reece Oxford. He played against Arsenal at the Emirates and was unbelievable, but he's gone to Germany and it hasn't gone the way he might've anticipated.

"People are seeing that more and they're more inclined to let their players go and play. The Bundesliga might not be the Premier League, but it's not far behind. If those kids can show that they're up to the level, they can come back and rip it up here too."

Asked if the current group of young England players represent something of a new 'Golden Generation', or whether that phrase has become tainted, he added: "The thing is, that original generation was really special. Whether the name was a hindrance or not, it's rare you get that many players together of that quality at similar ages.

"The problem was back then you'd play 4-4-2, if we'd been as tactically flexible as we are now we probably could've made something of it. We were just trying to get everyone on the pitch, we almost had too many great players."

David Beckham, Owen Hargreaves
England v Wales | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Hargreaves used the case study of Liverpool as a collective unit, of complementary players - rather than a group of superstars - who've used their strengths to become greater than the sum of their individual parts.

"If I look at Liverpool, and I mean this really respectfully, they probably don't have the best squad in the Premier League, or in Europe – but they're the best team in Europe," he said. "They all complement each other, and Jurgen Klopp deserves a ton of credit for making that whole group. They have a ridiculous, really good squad, but City are probably stronger, Barcelona and Real Madrid name for name, but that's not what it's about.

"Football is a team game, and I think we're blessed with this England generation now. Outrageously good. Rashford, Foden, Sancho, Raheem Sterling, but you've got to make a team of them. Gareth is doing a good job of making them a team. On paper they look like a Golden Generation, but you should only call them that when they win."

The Bundesliga came back last weekend – the first of Europe's 'big 5' to do so – and will continue with another full round of games starting on Saturday night; followed by a midweek round including a potential title-decided between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Robert Lewandowski, David Alaba, Alphonso Davies
Chelsea FC v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Bayern, competition resumptions allowing, are still in contention for a treble this season after blowing away Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie before lockdown commenced.

"The goal is to win the league, that's the first priority," Hargreaves warned. "The second one is to win the cup because people expect it, and the Champions League is the icing on the cake. The goal is to get into the knockout phases and make as much noise as you can. The way they played at the Bridge was mindblowing, really impressive.

"People talk about Bayern being in transition, but they came to Tottenham and Chelsea and gave two of our really good teams a horrible time. They're probably one of the dark horses for the Champions League; they're not one of the sexy teams but the way they played at the Bridge, they will have thought 'oh, if we play like this we can win'."

BT Sport is the home of the German Bundesliga with live coverage of every game for the rest of the season. Watch on TV, the app or with the BT Sport Monthly pass www.bt.com/sport/monthly-pass.

For more from Chris Deeley, find him on Twitter at @ThatChris1209!