When Steve McManaman left boyhood club Liverpool to join Real Madrid in 1999, Reds fans were outraged. Not only did the England winger ditch the club that turned him into a superstar, he did it on a free transfer, meaning the Reds didn't get a cent for him.
On the other hand, few could argue he was making a poor decision in sporting terms. During four years in the Spanish capital, McManaman won La Liga, two Champions Leagues, two Spanish Cups, the UEFA Supercup and the Intercontinental Cup.
He also played with some of the biggest names on the planet, from Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, to David Beckham and Ronaldo. Yet McManaman feels the 'Galagtico' tag often associated with Real during that era is unfair on the players that were at the club at the time he joined.
"It's strange really because when we won the Champions League in my first year, we didn't have any of those players," McManaman tells the Players Lounge section of FourFourTwo – order the latest issue of the mag here (opens in new tab).
"I think people get carried away with this Galactico nonsense because of the name that it conjures up. The likes of Roberto Carlos, Raul and Hierro, who weren't necessarily considered Galacticos before that period, took umbrage to the word because they felt they were the better players.
"Luis Figo arrived [from Barcelona in 2001] and he was a great player. A great lad too. The one thing you would say about those players is, they were really good professionals. They came into the dressing room and they didn't rock the boat. Luis spoke Spanish so he settled in really quickly. The following year, Zizou arrived and then Ronaldo came in a year later, and we won the league that season. They were great to play with but we had already been successful before they came in so the Galactico tag didn't matter one jot to us to be honest."
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Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Key FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.
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