Johnson told PlanetFootball: "I went to watch MK Dons against Spurs in a pre-season friendly and he really stood out.
"He was only 16, but must have been about six-foot and was a real box-to-box player already.
"Dele had an agent who I knew and Gary Waddock, who I'd known for a long time, was MK Dons' assistant manager – that's where the networking comes in. I put Dele's name forward to Liverpool, but someone else went to watch him and the rest is history.
"I'd have taken him all day long, but Liverpool's hierarchy disagreed and he went to Spurs. Damien had left by then and there was a new regime which was computer and stats-led.
"It was a frustrating time for me because, instead of striking while the iron was hot, like Damien with Gareth Bale, they insisted on watching players again and again, until it was too late and another club signed them."