Football: McManaman denies fan rift

REAL MADRID-BOUND midfielder Steve McManaman yesterday played down the criticism he has received from Liverpool fans and said he was looking forward to reviving his career at club and international level. McManaman was in Spain to put the finishing touches to his five-year contract with the Spanish giants, a deal that reportedly will net him pounds 14m in wages and signing-on fees.

The move from Liverpool has triggered criticism from sections of the Anfield crowd, but McManaman denied being singled out for rough treatment from the fans. "The Liverpool fans and public have been fantastic towards me," said McManaman. "Recently, the team hasn't had the right results and that's been frustrating. I don't think I have been singled out for criticism - it's all just been borne out of not getting results."

McManaman, the highest-profile player to move under the Bosman ruling, was wanted by a host of Europe's top clubs and he said he decided on a move to Madrid because of the club's rich history. "They're the European Cup holders and the World Club Cup holders," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, they're the best in the world."

On his international future, McManaman said the challenges of moving to Spain would broaden his horizons in both playing and personal terms. "I'm hopeful this will help me get back in the England squad as soon as possible. I've had to pull out of the last two squads but, hopefully, I'll be back in as soon as possible. Being here will make me a better player. I'll have to adapt to a different style and tactics."

McManaman will be arriving at Madrid at a time of upheaval at the club which has been hit by a series of high-profile disputes amongst the senior players as well as poor form in the Spanish League. Internationals Clarence Seedorf and Fernando Hierro had a showdown following Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Dynamo Kiev in the European Cup and their newly installed coach, John Toshack, has promised to get tough with his stars, starting with a heavy fine for both players.

Harry Redknapp is considering entering West Ham in the InterToto Cup this summer in a bid to appease his foreign signings. The West Ham manager is still hoping his team will qualify automatically for the Uefa Cup by finishing high enough in the Premiership, but if they fail to make it then he will be happy to put his side forward as England's representatives in the competition.

"There are a lot of new players here, and they all want to play in Europe next year. You talk to the likes of Paolo Di Canio and Marc-Vivien Foe who have arrived recently, and that is their aim - it is why they came here," said Redknapp.

Richard Gough has completed his move to Nottingham Forest and joins the Premiership's bottom club for the remaining 11 games of the season. Gough, who had been playing for San Jose Clash, is set to make his debut against Newcastle next Wednesday.

Arsenal's Nicolas Anelka has been named the Premiership's player of the month.

Venables' secret payments, page 1,

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