Steve McManaman had a very interesting career and one that he can look back on proudly as he won a lot of honours in the game and will go down as one of England’s greatest footballing exports.
During his career he became the first English player to win the Champions League with a non-English club and then followed this up by winning it again and becoming the first English player to lift the trophy twice. Now at the age of 43 he will be happy that he made the decision to move abroad but at the time he was one of the most controversial and high profile free transfers of all time.
The winger started his career at Liverpool and made his debut on 15th December 1990 in a 2-0 win over Sheffield United. After an injury to John Barnes, McManaman became a regular first team member during the 1991-92 season and played 51 times, including the FA Cup final in which he was named man of the match. His reputation was continuing to grow but one of the biggest bust ups in Premier League football happened between him and Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar after his poor clearance led to a goal in the Merseyside Derby during the 1993-94 season.
In the following campaign, McManaman was instrumental in helping the club pick up another trophy. The League Cup final in 1995 was renamed ‘The McManaman Final’ as he scored twice and in his second final he was once again named man of the match. At the end of the next season he was proving that he was one of the best wingers in the world by getting 25 assists in the Premier League.
McManaman was named Liverpool captain at the start of 1998-99 season but with his contract coming to an end and it not looking likely he would be signing a new one it seemed like a strange decision and on the 30th January 1999 it was announced that he would be joining Real Madrid at the end of the season. He never really hit the same heights but he will still go down as one of Liverpool’s best players and ended his time at the club with 66 goals in 364 games.
He made his debut for the Spanish giants on the 22nd August 1999 and set up a last minute winner against Mallorca and a week later on his home debut he scored in a 4-1 win over Numancia. It was in the Champions League that he saved his best performances for and he scored a fantastic volley in the final against Valencia and was arguably man of the match. Despite his contribution, Real Madrid splashed out on other players and it looked as though he was on his way out, however McManaman was determined to succeed and during the second half of the season he became a first team regular and was a key part in helping them win La Liga.
While at Real Madrid he constantly changed his game and became a versatile player making a fan favourite and also someone the rest of the team relied on. His second greatest moment for Madrid was also in the Champions League as he scored the second goal in the semi final against Barcelona to help them reach the final. After coming on as a substitute in the final he helped secure a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen. He spent one more season in Spain but didn’t get to play much and after 152 games he left and joined Manchester City on a free transfer on the 30th August 2004. Injuries stopped him reaching his full potential at City and he only played 35 Premier League games in two seasons for the club and did not manage to score a single goal.
The final word can go to Kevin Keegan who spoke after the 2000 Champions League final. “He was tremendous and, if he wasn’t man of the match, then I don’t know who was – and there were a lot of great performances. We are absolutely delighted for him. I want him to go and enjoy things and I know what it is like to play in a foreign side in a European Cup final.”