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McManaman agrees £14m deal with Real Madrid

McManaman agrees £14m deal with Real Madrid by William Johnson and Sarah Edworthy for "The Daily Telegraph"

Steve McManaman confirmed the worst fears of his Liverpool employers last night by admitting that he has signed a transfer agreement with Real Madrid which will earn him around £14 million over the next five years.

Liverpool, having groomed McManaman from raw schoolboy to international stardom, will get nothing for their efforts except the bitter realisation that they are the latest victims of the freedom of contract rulings which resulted from legal action instigated by the moderate Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman. McManaman's departure from Merseyside is no surprise. He had been threatening to leave when his contract expires next summer but Liverpool, having secured the services of his closest friend, Robbie Fowler, for a further three years only five days ago, were hopeful that the England winger could be persuaded to stay. The opportunity to join one of the world's most famous clubs and guarantee financial security for life understandably proved irresistible to McManaman, who will be 27 in two weeks' time. "I'm really looking forward to it," he enthused.

"I'm extremely sad to be leaving Liverpool," he said. "It was such a tough decision because I've been here 12 years but I've always stated that I wanted to play in Europe at some stage. Now is the right time. This is a chance to test myself in a top European league. I chose Real Madrid above the other top European clubs that came in for me because I've always thought they were an excellent club," he said, warning that the deal has not yet been concluded. He still needs to pass a medical test, which probably will take place on Monday.

Due to move on July 1 for a salary of about £50,000 a week, he added: "I'm ambitious to win things as a player and the fact that they were European champions last year was a persuasive factor because I knew I was joining a really good club. Although I've been to Spain loads of times I've never visited the club, but a lot of people spoke very highly of the set-up there to me."

McManaman - capped at youth, under-21 and 22 times at full level by England - wants to make a parting gift to Liverpool. "I'll leave at the end of the season but I want to do so having helped them win the League and made sure they're in the Champions' League next year." Details of the move were leaked by Real Madrid, who had been in opposition to their great rivals, Barcelona, and other Continental clubs in the race to sign a player who had promised, to the disappointment of champions Arsenal, that he would not join another Premiership club.

McManaman's advisors emerged from secret, detailed negotiations with Real management with a lucrative deal in exchange for a five-year contract. Spanish officials were flying to England late last night for McManaman to put pen to paper on a pre-contract offer in the next 24 hours.

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, gave no indication of what was about to happen when he held his media briefing in advance of today's match at Coventry but he was clearly distracted and his normal relaxed demeanour gave way to a series of curt answers. McManaman's injury problems this season - he has started only one of the last 15 matches because of a recurring achilles tendon complaint -have restricted his chances to impress his European admirers this season. But he could have taken his pick from a host of clubs, with the Italian trio of Lazio, Inter Milan and Juventus all making their interest known to Anfield. Until now McManaman has resisted Real's overtures but has always maintained that he wanted the challenge of playing abroad at some stage of his career. He was a better bet to carry out that wish than Fowler, with whom he has progressed through the youth ranks on Merseyside to rise to international prominence. McManaman has emerged as a more cosmopolitan character than his Toxteth pal and has the confidence to acquit himself well in a foreign environment.

Copyright - The Daily Telegraph

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