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Exclusive: Steve McManaman recalls joining a Real Madrid dressing room full of "lies and treachery"

Steve McManaman
(Image credit: Getty)

Moving to Real Madrid is a dream for almost any footballer, and Steve McManaman realised that ambition when he swapped Liverpool for Real Madrid in a free transfer in 1999. 

The Englishman joined a star-studded squad, including Raul, Roberto Carlos, Fernando Hierro and Ivan Campo. Yet far from joining a focused squad intent on winning silverware, McManaman joined at a difficult period in Real's history. 

The winger was to be manager Guus Hiddink's final signing before the Dutchman was sacked. Striker Raul then told the press, "The dressing room is a cesspit of lies, treachery and whispers. I feel sorry for new players like Steve McManaman coming into the club. If McManaman thinks he is coming to one of the world's top clubs then he has made a big mistake."

Yet McManaman denies ever feeling like he had moved into a snake pit, and claims the rumoured bad apples had left the Spanish giants the summer before his arrival. 

"To be honest, I never saw that. I think Raul said that because of what happened during the previous season," McManaman tells the Players Lounge section of FourFourTwoorder the latest issue here. "There had been a number of difficult players in the dressing room who had clashed with teammates and Real hadn't won any titles that year. 

"But then Davor Suker, Christian Panucci, Clarence Seedorf all left - some huge characters. So when I came into the team, the dressing room was fine. It was a very Spanish run, which I think that's the way they liked it. Manolo Sanchis was the godfather, Fernando Hierro his no.2. Raul was young but he was already a key figure. So when I joined the club there wasn't actually a huge amount of treachery or lies."

McManaman's decision to move to Real would prove a stroke of genius, as he claimed two league titles and two Champions Leagues during his four-year stint in Spain. 

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Ed McCambridge
Ed McCambridge

Ed McCambridge is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working for the magazine and website. Ed has been living in Berlin since 2015 and worked as a Bundesliga reporter before joining FFT. Formerly a season ticket holder at AFC Wimbledon, he's now most commonly spotted at local side Union Berlin.