Over the past few years and in my life time, the Premier League has been blessed with some exceptional talents, strikers such as Cantona, Bergkamp and Henry. Midfielders such as Keane, Vieira and Gerrard and defenders like Adams, Stam and Hyypia.
One position that seems to get overlooked is the traditional wide players, there has been many through the years who have helped their team to strive to success, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Robert Pires, Marc Overmars and Cristiano Ronaldo. All these players have in their own way achieved great success and proved to people that they deserve the recognition they receive from pundits and fans throughout the footballing world. Their crossing, dribbling and goal scoring talents which all helped Manchester United and Arsenal towards Premier League titles and FA Cup victories is superb.
One player that stands out in my mind as one of the greatest but is strongly underrated throughout the footballing world is Steve McManaman, you say this name and some people may even have the cheek to go “Who?” well if you don’t recall this name let me remind you.
Steve McManaman is one of the greatest wingers to play the sport and is the most decorated English footballer to have played at any foreign club in terms of trophies won overseas. His approach to the game and the way he twisted and turned defenders like they weren’t there along with the help of John Barnes during his Liverpool years still holds him in high regard with Liverpool fans. He made 274 league appearances for Liverpool scoring 47 goals he also had 112 assists to his name, which is a ratio of one every other game. In spite of the side only winning two trophies during his time with Liverpool, McManaman‘s achievements at the club were exceptional for a player in a side often labelled negatively. McManaman finished alongside Nick Barmby as joint runner-up to Giggs in the PFA Young Player of the Year awards in 1992, was named in the PFA Team of the Year for four consecutive seasons from 1994–95 to 1997–98 and also made the five man shortlist for PFA Player of the Year for three seasons from 1995–96 to 1997–98, with the PFA website describing him as one of the most gifted players of his generation. In an interview once, the greatest player by most to put on the boot Pele once labelled Steve McManaman as “The greatest winger to play the sport.”
In the 1999/2000 season, Liverpool lost out on a major transfer fee for McManaman when he moved to Real Madrid (yes Real Madrid) on a Bosman Transfer under manager Guus Hiddink who was sacked soon after his signing, under the Real Madrid team McManaman built his name as the most decorated English footballer to play at any foreign club (this ahead of David Beckham, Gary Lineker, Ian Rush, Kevin Keegan and Michael Owen etc.) in his first year at Real Madrid, McManaman won the European Cup with the Spanish giants, not only did he win it, he scored a fantastic volley in the 3-0 victory, he is the only English player to have ever won Europe’s elite club competition with a foreign club. McManaman was also twice voted as the Real Madrid supporters’ favourite player at the club during his tenure, which goes to show what a talent he was. In 2002 McManaman won his second Champions League medal with the club when they defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in the final at Hampden Park.
After a few exceptional years at the club, McManaman eventually got forced out of the club due to the signings of the Galactico’s such as Ronaldo, Figo, Zidane and with the squad getting stronger every year he found it harder to continue at the top-level, the signing of David Beckham eventually pushed him out the door, even though Beckham pleaded with the management for him to remain to help him grasp the life in Spain.
After he left Real Madrid he went to Manchester City to be reunited with long admirer Kevin Keegan, however his career wasn’t as glittering at City and he soon retired once Keegan was sacked in 2005, thus ending a glittering career for a young man brought up in a rough area of Liverpool.
So when people ask about the greatest wingers we’ve seen in our generation, the majority will of course name Beckham, Ronaldo, Giggs and in the future the name on everyone’s mind will most definitely be Lionel Messi.
However Steve McManaman is one name that most won’t recall but he should definitely be locked up their in memory, as to me, he is one of the greats.Follow @_4thOfficial