Exclusive: Liverpool And Real Madrid Legend Steve McManaman Looks Forward To 'Competitive' Masters Football Return
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Liverpool and Real Madrid legend Steve McManaman is looking forward to participating in the returning Masters Football series this weekend and expects a "competitive" but nonetheless "enjoyable" night of action.
After an 11-year hiatus since it was aired on Sky Sports, the popular six-a-side event is coming back in a big way courtesy of sports documentary streaming website 360 Sports Television.
On 8 July, A star-studded one-night tournament will take at a sold-out Braehead Arena, Glasgow.
Legendary players from four of British football's big guns will slug it out for the 360 Sports TV Masters Cup, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Celtic and Rangers all participating.
The quartet of sides will mix it up on the iconic blue turf for two eight minutes halves - with the top two from the group playing out the final.
Two-time Champions League winner McManaman is one of the stars to sign up and expects plenty of excitement from the over 35 tournament.
Happy birthday Steve McManaman!— Masters Football (@mastersfootball) February 11, 2020
The first Englishman to win the #ChampionsLeague twice and one of the finest Masters on the circuit!#HBD #Macca #YNWA #HalaMadrid #MastersFootball pic.twitter.com/tW6oaHWEK2
McManaman told SPORTbible: “It’s great. I wasn’t involved when it was on initially because I was probably still playing.
‘But since then, one of the owners, Steve Black, I’ve known for a while, and I've played in a lot of his games for the last 10 years.
“But normally we play in Singapore, or Hong Kong, Thailand, or Malaysia, you know, in the Far East, where, of course, Liverpool and Manchester United have huge fanbases.
“And we've gone over there a lot played against each other and played a Chelsea team or an Arsenal team or a combined team. And we've always had a great time.
“And the fact that it's back on and it's back on in this country - I believe there's been a lot of interest for it – is great really.
“I think as long as people are sensible, and we take it for what it is all about, should be it should be an enjoyable night.
“I think sometimes five-a-side or six-a-side football is little bit sharper. Nowadays, when you play 11-a-side on a big pitch, it becomes a little bit slow and a lot harder to watch because of course it's not the pace of a normal of a normal game. The five-a-side stuff should be quite quicker.”
The squads for the event have been announced, with Jamie Carragher, Luis Garcia, Stewart Downing, Jermaine Pennant, David Thompson, Sander Westerveld and Stephen Warnock all turning out for Liverpool.
“Assessing his team, McManaman said: "The likes of Stewart Downing, I think is mid to late thirties, he’s only just retired so he should be fitter than me or Jamie Carragher.
“I played a lot of the exhibition games for like the Liverpool older boys on the Real Madrid older boys. And I quite like the fact that if everybody wants to play or people want to get involved in different eras, I'm more than happy for that to happen.
“I love the fact that I play for Liverpool and Alan Kennedy wants to play at 67 - because he's played an integral part of Liverpool’s history – he's scored in two European Cup finals.
“If he wants to play and he feels that he's capable of running around and playing, even if it's for 10 to 15 minutes, you should play.
“It’s the same with them with Real Madrid when that happens, I played with Emilio Butragueno and people like that - different eras to when I played but if they’re fit and well and want to run around, they're absolutely superstars.”
It's been 22 years since McManaman scored a stunning volley for Real in the Champions League final and 17 since he hung up his boots.
But he's been a regular in Liverpool charity matches and though he's now reached half in century in life, the former England international still feels as though he's got plenty in the tank.
He added: “Physically I’m OK. I try and keep myself fit, COVID happens and suddenly you lose two or three years.
“I'm 50 now so when you say the number 50 you suddenly feel as if it's really old when it comes to football, to a certain extent.
“I still feel capable of running around I still go to the Liverpool academy and join in with the kids there so I still feel alright.
“I fully expect some of the players there to be a lot sharper and a lot quicker than me but as in fitness wise and being able to run and not getting tired, I'm still I'm still very good at things like that.”
Those turning it in the returning Masters Football event are happily retired but the will to win and be the best is still very much present.
McManaman believes that approach never leaves a player and pinpointed Jamie Carragher's competitive edge in recent Soccer Aid outings.
“When you start these games you always want to win, don’t you? You don't want to be ridiculed for losing by three, four, five goals.
“I think ex players have this mantra where if you're going to take part and play in a game you might as well win it. That's always with you all the time. You always will make a tackle or you always will try and score the goal and try to win.
“And you're more than happy if you win the trophy at the end - even if it's spraying a bottle of champagne, you'd rather be doing that than finishing last of four. There's still that competitive edge.
“I saw him in one of the Soccer Aid games recently and he still likes to put his foot in and doesn’t like anybody getting past him.
“If you come up against someone who’s quicker than you and a little bit sharper because they’re younger than you, you don’t want them ridiculing you so you always want to make sure they know you’re there.”
8 July is set to act as a trial of sorts, as there are already plans for a full-scale tournament with regional heats in the usual Masters Football format in 2023.
To catch this years Masters Football on July 8th, head over to 360 Sports TV here: https://bit.ly/3tBX8Op