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Premier League - Football: bet365 exclusive interview with Richard Dunne

Having spent nine seasons in Manchester, Richard Dunne made more than 350 appearances in sky blue, winning the club's Player of the Year in four consecutive seasons.

He also had spells at Goodison Park, where he started his career, and Villa Park, where he reached the EFL Cup final.

Dunne spoke to bet365 about his career, and what the future holds for some of his former clubs.

City have rotated a lot at centre-back this season - who would be your best pair to start next season if everyone is fit?

I think obviously very fortunate to have three such good centre-halves at the moment, I think if you were picking one out of the three, who you would want to start every week, you would probably start with Dias. and then one to go alongside him. It's almost unfair to pick between the other two because they are so good.

Probably for the balance of the team you would look at going Laporte for being left-footed and being able to play out that side and certainly when they have Cancelo who is mostly right-footed, having Laporte there gives the team a better balance so probably him, but If you told me he was out and you had to play Stones it wouldn't be a problem you know.

John Stones was probably the player of the season before the one just finished and then he was unfortunate he didn't get a lot of games because of the performances of Laporte when he came back in but every time he's played he's been great and I think the manager must have difficulty every week deciding who plays.

Another player that has been strong in that position is Nathan Ake, who has kind of quietly had a good season. What does he have to do to become first choice, or do you think he has to move to get regular football?

I think the quality of the players ahead of him makes it difficult for him. Probably his best performances and his best form probably leaves him in fourth place, I think the other three are up there when you're talking about the best centre-halves in world football. I think you look at the other three as definitely in the top ten within that so it's a tough three to try and get ahead of but Ake has done well.

Certainly as a player who doesn't play an awful lot to keep his form and keep his fitness when he does come in, he doesn't just come in and play he adds to the team, he can score goals he can do other things so he has had a good season - but like you say it's not him it’s the other three that are better.

City have already signed Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez and been very active early on in the transfer window - what other positions do they need to strengthen?

I think they will probably look at the full-back position again this summer, and possibly another midfielder certainly if the rumours about Gundogan wanting to leave or potentially leaving are true. Last season it was Bernado Silva who was talking about leaving but he's had an exceptional season but I think they would like another central midfielder, someone to cover that role and possibly someone who can drop back and play as a six and help Rodri as obviously Fernandinho is moving on.

I think right and left-back they've got two great players in those positions so it's difficult to sign two more great players and tell them that the likelihood is that you're going to be a sub a lot of the time so they will probably go for a younger player in those positions - but their squad is so strong and I think with Haaland coming in and Alvarez it just strengthens that front line even more and we can hope and expect to see the best of Jack Grealish next season as well so it's stumping I suppose for the rest of the league when you look at City's squad and what they could add to it and I think obviously the goal is going to be the Champions League so the more they strengthen the more it increases their chances in that competition.

After spending £100m on him last summer, has Jack Grealish underwhelmed during his debut campaign? Does Pep Guardiola trust him enough?

It's a hard one because I wouldn't say he's had a bad season he's just probably not showing the same - he's not showing the same importance to Man City as he did at Villa which is obvious because he's ahead of the players at Villa, but he's done alright in what he's been asked to do and it isn't just coming in and playing as a normal left winger, he has to do different things - there's different tasks asked of the Man City players in those positions and I always go back to Riyad Mahrez who found it very difficult for the first few months and didn't play a lot and eventually he earnt the trust of the manager and improved as a player himself so I expect the same from Grealish next season.

It’s sort of the development period and the learning period is coming to an end now and next season he'll have had a pre-season to prepare for next season and to go on and really show his stuff - I think with the manager he (Grealish) is caught between expressing himself and doing what the manager wants, and he will understand that a little bit better next season as when he's in the final third and he dribbles with it nobody wants to tackle him and everyone backs off and we if can see that more Jack will enjoy it more and the club will benefit from that.

It's hard because he's judged by his value rather than what he's actually done on the pitch people expect him to score and assist in every game. His performances have been okay, it's just people I suppose for £100m want more but it will come, I don't think when I've watched him I've never felt that he's underperformed, he's probably done his job on the day and that's what the manager would have asked of him.

Which players in the Man City squad could lose out as a result of Erling Haaland’s arrival?

I think just quickly going back to Jack Grealish, when Jack came in he had to adapt to Man City, he had to adapt to the way Man City play - I think with Haaland, Man City also probably have to adapt a little bit. I think the formation will change slightly because he's not really someone who is going to play that false 9 position and offer extra bodies in the midfield.

They will play higher up the field I would imagine the front line and the rotations of the front line you've got Sterling, Grealish, Mahrez, Foden, Jesus if he stays, Alvarez so there's a lot of players so I think I'd imagine Foden is going to play in one of the wider positions unless he's the midfielder that they were thinking of signing and would they drop him back to become that midfielder. As we've seen they've got to the semi-final of the Champions League, the semi-final of the FA Cup, and got far into the Carabao Cup which they normally go on and win so there's 60 odd games to play next season so it's a case that everybody gets their minutes on the pitch.

You played with Alf-Inge Haaland for a few seasons at Man City, were you aware of his young son Erling at the time and what do you make of his move to the club?

No, I think he was born the season that he came to Man City so there was no signs of him then being a few months old of any footballing ability haha, but yeah he looks like an unbelievable footballer and he's got all the attributes of what you need in the Premier League, he can win headers, he can battle centre-halves, he can out sprint centre backs, he's got an instinct to be in the right position to score goals and when you've watched Man City, because they do get down the line and put so many balls across the six-yard box, you're just screaming out for a player just to be stood there and I think Haaland will be a player who will be happy enough to forego all of the build-up play and just wait until it comes to him in a position to score. So I think it's going to be an exciting signing.

The rivalry between City and Liverpool has seen some of the best football ever played in the Premier League, but will City signing Erling Haaland put some daylight between the two teams moving forward? With just one point separating them this season, do you think next season because of Haaland they can go on and put a bigger gap between the two?

It's very difficult because is it realistic that Man City are going to go and get another 10 points next season? I don't know because you finish your season with 93 points it's really, really high so in terms of the Premier League, I don't know how much of a difference it will make because Man City and Liverpool will still be competitive. Liverpool will still be looking to get over 90 points and so to beat that is a huge ask. Man City have managed it in recent years but again it's difficult.

Possibly in one-off games in the cup and possible Champions League games and stuff like that where there has been chances that have been missed over the last few years where we have seen Man City just miss out on the Champions League - I think he's the signing for that competition that can potentially get the goal to put games to bed like that semi-final first leg against Real Madrid at the Etihad, it should've been put to bed, it should've been six or seven goals but they just didn't get it so I think with him in the side the belief would be that those chances would be taken and those games would be finished before they get into sticky situations.

Guardiola is out of contract next season and rumoured to be weighing up an extension – is there anything that could sway him against following Jurgen Klopp and signing a new deal?

I think you're looking at the summer and he's signed Alvarez, Haaland and then from the outside, you're looking he probably needs a midfielder and a couple of full-backs so he's starting to rebuild the side again, and once he's starting to rebuild the side he'll be looking and thinking 'right well I've got to see this through again' hopefully and I think he is enjoying himself in Manchester.

He's got a great team playing great football and I think his ambition is to go to a World Cup, he's obviously not going to go to this one, it's the next one or whatever that's another four years away so there's plenty of time for him to do stuff with that so I imagine he will sign an extension and try and win the Champions League and if they win it once then try and win it consecutively and see if they can really put Man City on top of the tree.

Paul Pogba supposedly turned down a move to Man City for fear of facing backlash from Man Utd fans – do you think if that is true then he was right to do that?

Yeah I mean he's obviously a good player and he performs when he plays for France but I don't think he's been good enough in the Premier League to warrant a move to Man City. I think you look through Man City's squad and the one thing that you get out is consistency week in and week out there's hardly a bad performance, and if there is you see them probably resting the player for a few weeks to make sure he's fully focussed to go again.

I didn't see that consistency from Pogba in his period at Man Utd where they've struggled as a team I know, but he's not really brought anything to it - the odd occasion he's shone but not enough to warrant a move to there - I think whether he's right or wrong to turn it down, I don't know whether it was available or not, but I'd imagine he will probably move into Europe in the summer probably go back to Juventus or a team like that.

City’s rivalry with Liverpool is so often discussed, given your former side finished 35 points better off than neighbours Manchester United - would it be fair to say City’s rivalry with Liverpool has become more intense than their one with United?

I'm sure they look to the United games and think of the opportunity to put one over on them. Hopefully, we'll hammer them sort of thing. When I played United were probably 30 point ahead of us at some stages in the seasons, for them, it wasn't their biggest game, it was Arsenal, Chelsea or whoever at the time.

It becomes a huge game for the underdog to put one over on their local rivals and at the moment it's United trying to catch City. But for them to try and close the gap it's a huge ask. But I'm sure next season the manager's first question will be how did Liverpool do? It won't be worrying about United but if they do then fair play to them because it's not an easy job.

What was your best memory of a Derby game?

When you win them, we went into every derby and we were expecting to lose, but we got some big victories against them. We beat them 3-0, 4-1, 1-0 a few times. When you’re in a season where the aim isn't to win the league because we knew we couldn't back them you want to try and get as many big results as you can against the big sides and there's nothing better than giving the fans a derby win in a season of ups and downs. It means a lot. So just winning and competing in them. When the final whistle goes it's a great feeling.

You joined Everton as a teenager and began your professional career at Goodison Park, how did it feel to see them struggling in the Premier League this season - and is Frank Lampard the right man going forward?

It's been difficult to watch them because in the last couple of seasons they've started off really well and looked like they were going to compete for a Europa League place at least and it's just fallen apart. Certainly this season they got themselves into a really bad situation so it's difficult to watch them, especially with the amount of money they've spent over the last few years, the recruitment has not been right for them. That's not down to Lampard who's only had a couple of months there. The job was probably bigger than he expected going in there.

It looks like there's a lot of clearing out to be done there. He needs to be given the opportunity. It wasn't his fault this season or Benitez's either, I think there's just an overload of players that aren't up to the standard of Everton. They got themselves out of it in the end and the manager deserves credit for that but there needs to be an improvement or the inevitable will happen and the manager will change again.

For Everton to go forward they have to have that consistency in the manager's position and hopefully they give Lampard a few quid to spend in the summer and he can assemble a good team. I think the expectations have to be that they are not challenging for the Europa League, they just need to get top 10 and build over a period of time rather than having expectations be too high and failing miserably like they did this season.

What are the main areas they need to improve?

Centre halves they need to improve, midfield and attacking options as well. I don't know how much money they will have but it's not a one window fix at Everton it's going to take time because there are a lot of players that need to go. It's a different lineup every time I watch them because the players aren't performing consistently. They need some players they can trust and build a team around. They don't have that at the moment and its a tough ask. The expectations can't be raised too high.

Everton will likely have to pay Tottenham more money for Dele Alli if they keep him around next season – do you think they should persist with him or should they cut their losses?

I think for Dele it was an opportunity to prove himself and earn a contract. He's done okay but he's not done enough to start in the team and Everton needs players to start next season. So if Alli is going to cost them millions they would be foolish not to look around and see if they can get someone they can trust and they know will be available. He's not proved that over the last 6 months.

Do you think accusations of the Toffees ‘over-celebrating’ their 16th placed finish are fair?

I think it's not about celebrating finishing 16th. If you said at the beginning of the season to the fans 'give us a cheer for finishing 16th' you wouldn't get many off their seats but it's more about the occasion and the situation they found themselves in. To be 2-0 down and turn the game around, it's about the emotion of what it means to the club. Nobody is pleased with where they finished, but it's just a one-off game when you looked dead and buried and they've won it, they have every right to celebrate. Going onto the pitch was probably too far but we've seen it quite a bit over the last few weeks but I don't blame them at all for celebrating the win. It was a huge game.

What do you make of the job Steven Gerrard has done since becoming Aston Villa manager?

He's done okay, he's brought more relief to the club, there's optimism going into next season that they will be challenging higher up. The results have been a little inconsistent, he won't be over the moon about that. Performances have been ok at times and disappointing at others. For him it's about finding the right players in the summer. Villa is probably 2/3 seasons ahead of Everton, they've got a good core of players, they just need bits of quality to progress. I think Gerrard will be a quality manager, he'll do really well if he's backed. You'd expect Villa to be pushing for a Europa League place.

Is it a matter of time before Gerrard takes over from Klopp?

It all depends, if he gets relegated with Villa next year then no. But he looks like he's going in the right direction. He's got the nucleus of a good squad, next season is a big season. He will want to prove he is the real deal and he can challenge at the top end of the league. He certainly gave City a run for their money at the weekend so for him to be competing against Guardiola and Klopp will only benefit him. If he shows he can bring Villa from mid-table to a serious top 6/7 candidate then the conversation around Liverpool gets serious. He still has a way to go though in my opinion.

Villa announced the signing of Coutinho on a permanent deal, just how big of a statement does that signing send out to the rest of the league?

People know Villa are serious and do not want to stand still. They got him for a good price as well so it hasn't used up all their budget. It's about adding quality and adding someone like him and playing him regularly, a layer like that will light up the Premier League. If Villa are competing in the big games and they need a man to pull the strings and win them games against the bigger sides. That's what you need to go and compete. 

What areas do you think Villa have to improve next season? And are there any realistic signings you’d like to see them make?

I'm sure clubs will start looking at Tarkowski from Burnley and Dennis from Watford now they have gone down. They would benefit a few teams in Villa's area. They need another attacking player to give them more options up top and another central midfielder. They aren't crying out for someone in any position but they are looking for that next level of player to push them up the league, they have a decent strong squad. 

Your individual performance against Russia for the Republic of Ireland in 2011 draws plaudits more than a decade later, where do you rate that in terms of your career outings and did you expect it to have such a reaction?

That was the best match I played in my career. It was one of those nights where everything seemed to hit me and you can't replicate it. Some games just happen and you are more involved. Luckily we got a draw. The reaction after was really nice and I really enjoyed it, people still talk about it today. But it could have been Darren O'Dea who was playing beside me, it could have all been coming down his side, you just don't know.

You've mentioned before that you moved to Monte Carlo after retirement, how does your day to day life look. And how does it compare to life in Ireland and England?

It's different. I run an academy over here and work with a local club coaching kids, so I still do football every day. Games at weekends stuff like that. The difference is the weather, it's nice to be able to put a pair of shorts on and this morning I've been for a swim before this, so it's nice. I'm going back to Ireland for a couple of days this afternoon for a couple of days. I enjoy going back there and to England as well. I think when you live somewhere it's not the holiday that you go on, you know? When you live anywhere you have to get on with normal day to day things, so it's nicer doing it in better weather.

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