British teams must bridge Europe gap

Steve McManaman at the Premier League Asia Trophy. He was at the event as the brand ambassador for Barclays.
Steve McManaman at the Premier League Asia Trophy. He was at the event as the brand ambassador for Barclays.PHOTO: BARCLAYS
Steve McManaman at the Premier League Asia Trophy. He was at the event as the brand ambassador for Barclays.
Steve McManaman at the Premier League Asia Trophy. He was at the event as the brand ambassador for Barclays.PHOTO: BARCLAYS

HONG KONG • He is one of the rare English footballers to have tasted success in another major European league.

Yet, Steve McManaman would like nothing better than to see British clubs capture European trophies this upcoming season.

The former Liverpool winger, 45, enjoyed four fruitful years with Spanish giants Real Madrid from 1999 to 2003, winning two European Cups and two LaLiga titles before returning to England to finish his career with Manchester City.

It is evident, though, that his heart still lies with his home country when asked what is the most exciting thing he is looking forward to for the new season.

"I just hope British teams do much better in Europe this season," he said. "It's pretty inexplicable why they've not done well in recent Champions League campaigns, considering the top players.

"This year, we've got five English Premier League (EPL) teams in the Champions League, and we have Celtic from Scotland too. So that's six strong teams, and I hope at least three can at least make the last 16."

McManaman was in Hong Kong last week as the Premier League Asia Trophy brand ambassador for Barclays, the EPL's official banking partner.

Liverpool are in the pre-season tournament with Crystal Palace, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion.

While he has had a successful 10-year career with the Reds, winning an FA Cup and a League Cup, he was actually a childhood Everton fan.

So when they signed a slew of eye-catching summer transfers, including Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Jordan Pickford, the natural question is whether Everton have caught up with their more illustrious neighbours.

McManaman's verdict? It is still too far for Everton to catch up with the EPL's elite clubs.

"If they had managed to keep Romelu Lukaku, then they might have a shot at the top four or five. Rooney is not the answer," he said.

"Still, they have a good squad, a great manager in Ronald Koeman. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how the Merseyside derbies turn out to be."

And as for his old club, McManaman feels it will be a brand new challenge for Jurgen Klopp's men.

"Last season, they were fantastic against the top sides, but they didn't have European competitions to contend with," he said.

"Now that they have returned to the Champions League, it will be interesting to see how they maintain last year's standards."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'British teams must bridge Europe gap'. Print Edition | Subscribe