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FOOTBALL: MACCA'S STRIP CHOKER.

STEVE McMANAMAN played the diplomat yesterday in an attempt to save himself from the venom of the Kop.

The England forward refused to don the colours of his new club Real Madrid when he was unveiled in the Bernabeu Stadium after passing his medical.

A Real official said: "We quite understand. It could be embarrassing if he was photographed in a Real strip on the pitch. Steve is still a Liverpool player and we feel he made the right decision." McManaman packs his bags for Spain at the end of the season and joins the European Cup holders on a five-year contract worth more than pounds 2million a year.

"The Liverpool fans' reaction to my signing for Real has been very positive on the whole," he said in Madrid.

"There has been some unrest at recent matches, but I think that has been caused more by Liverpool not getting the right results.

"I have had 12 marvellous years at Liverpool and the time is right for a new stage in my career."

McManaman will be the only English player in the Spanish league and he is already taking lessons in the language, although the team's manager is former Liverpool idol John Toshack.

McManaman said: "I will have to adapt to the culture as a person as well as a player."

He also revealed that there were offers from other European clubs. "I don't want to go into who they were, but once I knew Real were interested, that was it," he said.

"Their history is fantastic. They are the current champions of Europe and the world. I think switching to continental football will make me a better player. Hopefully I can get back in the England squad."

McManaman refused to be drawn into talking about the dressing-room fight between Real team-mates Clarence Seedorf and Spanish defender Fernando Hierro after the European Cup clash with Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 6, 1999
Words:318
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