As well as being Liverpool’s manager for six years, Gérard Houllier spent some time in charge of Paris Saint-Germain in France, between 1985-88.
That’s why Le Parisien decided he was the right man to talk to ahead of the clash between the two sides in the Champions League on Tuesday, giving him four players from each team to talk about and compare.
One of the matchups was Virgil Van Dijk and Thiago Silva, whom Houllier admires a lot, but he still had great things to say about the Liverpool centre-back.
He said: “I really like Thiago Silva. His ability to start attacks is at a top level, he still has great anticipation and I feel he’s getting better with age.
“Van Dijk is more powerful, very comfortable in duels, he bullies you and is quick. He’s really adapted to English football. There’s a reason Liverpool paid over €80m for him”.
Forced to discuss both Neymar and Roberto Firmino, even if they don’t exactly play in the same role for their respective clubs, Houllier heaped praise on the Reds striker, stating ‘he’s better than you think’, even if he isn’t a natural goalscorer like Edinson Cavani.
As for the Mohamed Salah and Kylian Mbappé, it’s all about how quick they are, even if he feels no one in the Liverpool side, even Sadio Mané, is as fast as the French forward.
While the Egypt international is hardly slow, his strength, for Houllier at least, is how quickly he can change direction and how adept he is in front of goal.
Down Mbappé’s end, it’s more his ability to merge his pace and dribbling ability, but he still needs to work on his composure in front of goal and his decision making.
We see this as constructive criticism. He is only 19, after all…