The Englishman won back-to-back UEFA Champions League titles with Real Madrid.
Former Liverpool and Real Madrid legend Steve McManaman was in Kolkata over the weeekend as the brand ambassador for LaLiga in India, for the official screening of the season’s first El Clasico. Khel Now managed to get in touch with the two-time UEFA Champions League winner to get detailed accounts on moments from his career as well as his valuable insights on many important questions concerning football.
We started off by asking him about his experience in India so far and also whether this was his very first visit. The 46-year-old stated that it was his first visit to Kolkata, but he had been to Mumbai before. “So, I only arrived last night and haven’t had the chance to explore the city yet, apart from the journey from the airport to the hotel. I’m hoping to see a lot of it this afternoon and then tonight as we go to the Clasico screening.” At this point, we did not miss the opportunity to reiterate to him how much the city is crazy for football to which McManaman smiled in delight and said, “Great! Great! Everybody’s crazy for football.”
The former England international is considered a legend at the Santiago Bernabeu
When asked about his experience growing up as a kid on Merseyside, his house was equidistant (almost ten minutes) to the Liverpool and Everton grounds, the former England international revealed that he belonged to a working-class family and grew up as an Everton fan, since everyone in his family was obsessed with football. “Once my father knew I was interested in it, he took me everywhere you know. My father played locally for clubs in and around Liverpool. So, I went to see him whenever he played football. I went to see Everton whenever he’d take me. So, that was the love of football bred in me,” he reflected on his beginnings as a fan of the sport.
When questioned about the offer he received from Liverpool (local rivals of Everton) to become a professional footballer at their club, he revealed that it was partly down to the charm that the Reds had in the 80s and partly down to their assurances being much more impressive than what Everton could offer.
“When I spoke to Liverpool as a 14-year-old along with my father, they were so much more promising. They knew more about me than Everton did. They had done their homework. So, when I was thinking about joining, Liverpool were far more impressive. I was an Everton fan, my dad was an Everton fan, but when we spoke to the respective clubs, we made up our minds to join Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish knew who I was and as a young boy, those little things make it more attractive.”
McManaman was then quizzed about the current crisis at Real, where new manager Lopetegui has failed to churn up the desired results. The Engglishman emphasized on the mistake of not replacing Cristiano Ronaldo, as the primary reason behind why Madrid are struggling at the moment.
“They did not bring the players in that area and I think coupled with Zinedine Zidane leaving and the core of the squad being over 30 years of age, they haven’t done enough in terms of management.” MacManaman was also swift to dismiss former Los Blancos chief Ramon Calderon’s assertion that former boss Jose Mourinho would end up back at the club sooner or later.
The midfielder’s longest association was with Liverpool, a club where he spent nine years. However, in that spell the Reds only won trophies, the FA Cup in 1991-92 and the League Cup in 1994-95. Asked if the club could have done better to battle for the league and other major honours in that time, McManaman expressed the view that the team probably needed a couple of better players to compete with Manchester United. “We had a great side. We were one of the most exciting teams around. We even beat United a couple of times, but for various reasons against certain opposition, we lost the game. I don’t know whether it was down to mental preparation or whether a couple of players lacked quality sometimes.”
The former Manchester City player also painted a totally different picture of the 2002 Champions League final. Most football fans remember it for the magnificent Zidane volley, but McManaman revealed that they found it tough to hold on to the lead against a very competent Leverkusen side and that they won the game thanks to Iker Casillas and the heroics of the Madrid defence. “The Zidane goal is iconic now only because we managed to win the game,” he asserted.
The Englishman also revealed how hard it was for him to leave Liverpool when he signed for Madrid. “I had to leave my family. My mother passed away at the end of May and I left in July. It was very difficult.” He also spoke about how hard the first six months in Madrid were for him, getting used to the language, the culture, the weather and the city’s lifestyle. He also joked about how he ended up not enjoying the Champions League victories to the fullest because he could not participate with the local fans and players in their songs and chants, as he did not speak and understand enough Spanish.
The former Los Blancos star played in his fair share of El Clasicos
At this point, we questioned the former England international on what he’s made of Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions so far. The midfielder stated that the tactician had done a good job with the side, but he also mentioned that a large part of England progressing as far as they did in Russia, was down to the favourable draw.
With the interaction drawing to a close, we asked the Los Blancos great a few quick questions. McManaman said he fancied Manchester City to win the Premier League this season as well and also praised Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team. He also expressed his delight with the top English teams performing well in Europe and said they stood a chance to win the Champions League.