When you think about English footballers that have also been successful abroad, one of the first names that comes to mind is Steve McManaman.
The 41-year-old is arguably the most decorated English player to have ever played in another country, and as UEFA once said; “of all England’s footballing exports in the modern era, none were as successful as McManaman.”
It was back in 1999 when I first saw him playing for Real Madrid, where he had just joined from Liverpool. He was a midfielder full of grace with great technical abilities that knew how to find space to move the ball. And so 15 years later I finally got the chance to speak with the man .
Macca is now a regular pundit at BT Sport and will be participating in the channel’s FA Cup coverage this weekend. The Liverpool legend is enjoying his time at the new channel and as an FA Cup winner himself, is looking forward to the weekend with the history of the competition certainly not lost on the former great.
According to the ex-Manchester City player the recipe for an FA Cup win includes a good team, a strong mentality, some luck, decent fixtures and very good team mates – all things Liverpool possessed back in 1992 where McManaman won his first ever major piece of silverware and solidified his fondest FA Cup memory.
“It was an absolutely incredible feeling,” he says. “We were the favorites and they expected us to win. It is an amazing feeling to walk up there and receive your medal.
“I was 12 years old back when I watched Everton winning the FA Cup with my father. I remember travelling back home, hearing songs and people telling stories. And there I was eight years later as an FA Cup winner.
“The FA Cup was one of the reasons we joined the game back then. It was never about the money in our day.”
Macca hung up his boots nine years ago and ended a spectacular career with absolutely no regrets. He told me that football has its highs and lows but it is important to experience those lows in order to improve.
Now as a pundit he observes the new generation of stars fighting it out and so I ask him who he thinks will emerge victorious at Wembley. After a small pause it’s obvious he hasn’t made up his mind yet but he did give me a few thoughts.
He believes that Manchester City have the best chances to win most of the trophies this season but if anyone manages to stop Manuel Pellegrini’s machine then they will deserve it.
As a former Reds’ star he wishes the team well but he believes that, just like every other squad, they will need luck in the draw because if Brendan Rodgers’ side draws the Citizens or Arsenal away in the next round, then they will have a tough test to overcome.
“Unfortunately the great thing about the FA Cup is the draw as everybody wants an easy fixture,” he added.
The Merseyside club has been impressive of late but Macca believes that the squad is nowhere near as good as the great Liverpool of old, even though they have laid the basic foundations.
“Liverpool are playing well but now they are facing the difficult part and they already have an injury (Lucas Leiva). If they finish fourth in the League then they will have done very well but they do need a couple of new signings to hopefully elevate the team.
“There is a big improvement from last season but they need to make sure that good players like Luis Suarez don’t get injured.”
Last year Wigan shocked the world when they beat Man City and won the FA Cup, however the BT pundit doesn’t expect such a big upset this season.
Many of McManaman’s former teammates and foes ended up becoming managers but after seeing the kind of pressure that gaffers, such as David Moyes, are enduring he is having second thoughts.
“I don’t know at the moment to be honest. I always thought I wanted to be a manager when I was a player but now I see all the pressure that managers are facing and I understand how difficult it truly is.
“It is a world where chairmen, players and fans have less patience and that is really harsh for the managers.”
At the moment, the former England international works as a mentor for Liverpool’s under-21s and under-18s squads and juggles it with his responsibilities at BT Sport – two tasks that he enjoys greatly.
The interview comes to an end and McManaman bids me farewell, his voice is still very kind and lively. You can tell that the Liverpool veteran is far from done with football and we will still be seeing plenty of him.
It is still a mystery though if we will ever see the 41-year-old back on a Premier League pitch but BT Sport viewers will be able to see him analysing the FA Cup’s fourth round fixtures.
“The FA Cup and League Cup are more important than ever. It is not good enough to finish third of fourth in the League anymore.”
BT Sport will be showing Arsenal v Coventry City tonight (7:45 pm), Stevenage v Everton tomorrow (5:30 pm) and Sheffield United v Fulham on Sunday (1 pm).
BT Sport will be showing up to 25 live games including the final from this season’s FA Cup with Budweiser. BT Sport is free with BT broadband, to find out more visit www.btsport.com