'I wish we had Gary Neville on Match of the Day', admits Gary Lineker as he defends the BBC's flagship football show

Lineker claims that analysts on the highlight show cannot fit in the same detailed analysis as Sky into their limited coverage
  • @JackdeMenezes

Gary Lineker has admitted that he would like to see former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville working on Match of the Day after impressing in his time with Sky Sports working as a football analyst and co-commentator.

The BBC’s flagship football show has come in for criticism in recent years for not delving into expert analysis as much as its full coverage rivals, as well as pundits such as Alan Shearer and Mark Lawrenson coming under-fire in the past as well as the shows presenter Lineker.

But the former England striker has defended the show, claiming they do the best job that they can, given the minimal time they are allotted to scrutinise each game, whereas Sky Sports can delve much further into the breakdown of how the game is played.

Speaking in an interview with The Guardian, Lineker said: “You cannot get involved in debate on MOTD. You can do it on Sky because they've got hours and hours.

“We've got a couple of minutes. It's a very disciplined show. Our primary purpose is to show the action and the analysis is very secondary. We have lots of people who would prefer no analysis. We have lots of people who would prefer more analysis. We have to find a balance.

“We simply can't do that (in-depth analysis) when we've just got three minutes 30 seconds to discuss the first match – and we're limited by the contract as to the amount we can show."

He spoke of how Neville’s detailed punditry has revitalised the role and provided a freshness into how plays are broken down. Lineker commented on how Neville spent eight minutes picking apart a single corner.

“He's very good,” praised Lineker. “The only difficult thing for him is that when it comes to analysing England players he's involved with them as [an assistant] coach. There have already been a couple of occasions when he's avoided it. But he's very good – and, well, I wish we'd had him on MOTD."

Lineker also spoke on how the show, which he has presented since 1999 (except a brief three-year hiatus when ITV took over the rights) has developed over the years, and will continue to develop in the future.

"We have meetings all the time where we're looking at ways of finding a different method,” admitted Lineker. “But it's forgotten how we made a fundamental change 10 years ago. Prior to 2003, you'd see two main games and then four minutes of another game and then after that just the other goals on MOTD or ITV's version. When we got the [rights] contract back I went to the powers-that-be and said: 'Is there a way we can show highlights of every game?' They backed it. It was a brave, bold, very expensive decision.

"But we're bucking the trends on highlight shows for sport – audiences are down everywhere and, considering the excessive football on TV, it's remarkable we generally hit between six-to-seven million every weekend."