'What's he worth now?' - Hibs boss feels Ryan Porteous has justified £20m valuation with Scotland showings
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Before the 23-year-old had completed his move to Watford in January, the Easter Road boss insisted he had the talent to command a sizeable fee and after watching him shut out former world champions Spain at Hampden on Monday night, Johnson believes his comment have been vindicated.
"I think Ryan has always been a good player; perceptions change. He’s in a new environment where he's training with better athletes – that Watford squad is strong in terms of the players' athletic nature. I think he probably already is a £20m player,” he states. “Absolutely. I’ve sold players at the clubs I’ve been at and Ryan is as good as all of them. Alfie Mawson, £5.5m; Lloyd Kelly, £22.5m; Adam Webster, £25m; Aden Flint, £7m, Marc Roberts, £3.5m, and James Tarkowski played for England.
"All these players are centre-halves, so I have a really good concept of centre-halves and their value and how they can step in. If Ryan was to be sold and someone big came in for him then what’s the price?”
Johnson has form for talking up the value of his players. It wasn’t so long ago that he stated £10 million wouldn’t convince him to sell Rocky Bushiri, but he feels Porteous performing well for Watford and Scotland can help bump up the centre-back’s price-tag.
“Often it depends what environment you put them in. On an international stage, against Spain, there is that realistic value,” Johnson adds. “And I hope he does go for big money because of our sell-on. I feel that a new environment where he's training with better athletes – that Watford squad is strong in terms of the players' athletic nature – can help."
Johnson refuses to take the credit for the defender’s rise to the top, but explains that both Porteous and the coaching staff worked hard to improve his game before his move south in January – and hit out at the perception of him as a player and person.
"We worked hard on Ryan's concentration, and he worked hard on it as well,” he explains. “If you look at this season as a whole he didn't get sent off once and if he did get booked, a lot of them were harsh. He was controlled.
"Yes, I was asking him to step in and make bold decisions because I believed in him on the ball, but it was something we worked hard on, having that fire in the belly and ice in the head. That's just a case of the player maturing, we gave him leadership responsibilities and all those things started to come out naturally in his game, but also because he was working on them.
"I would never take the credit for a player improving but it's a journey that they're on and sometimes the perception is not the reality. It becomes the reality because of the media, the referees, or anyone who has a perception, but I'm only giving you the story from when I've been in and what I've seen, and it's been very consistent in terms of his progression."