McManaman vows to fight for Real role

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The Independent Online

Steve McManaman has been deemed surplus to requirements at Real Madrid, news that is certain to provoke a rush of interest from Premiership clubs for the England midfielder's services.

Steve McManaman has been deemed surplus to requirements at Real Madrid, news that is certain to provoke a rush of interest from Premiership clubs for the England midfielder's services.

Yet the former Liverpool player, who capped a fine first season in Spain with a goal in the European Cup final against Valencia in Real's 3-0 triumph, is determined to stay at the Bernabeu to fight for his first-team place despite being told he has little chance of playing next season.

The Real coach, Vicente del Bosque, yesterday outlined McManaman's prospects. "I have pointed out to him there are others in front of him at the club and said there is little chance of him playing this year," he said.

Luis Figo, the £37m signing from Real's rivals Barcelona, is guaranteed a place on the right side of midfield, with Julio Alvarez and Albert Celades preferred to McManaman in case of injury to the Portuguese playmaker. However, the 28-year-old Liverpudlian said: "I want to stay and fight for my position in the team and make as many appearances as possible. I spoke with Real general manager, Jose Martinez Pirri, last week and with the coach yesterday.

"Both of them told me it was not going to be easy for me to win a place in the team, but that has already happened to me with Liverpool and England and I did not expect anything else with Real Madrid this season. It is going to be a very long season, with lots of competitions and many games. There will be opportunities for everyone and I will wait for mine. In addition, I am very happy at Real - Madrid is a city that enchants me."

McManaman has been linked with both Middlesbrough and Aston Villa and the Spanish sports daily Marca claims that another Premiership club also hopes to tempt him back home. But any decision to leave the Spanish giants will be the player's alone. McManaman has just under three years left on his contract at the Bernabeu. McManaman said: "Last year was very good for me - I was very happy and won the European Cup. I do not see any reason to return to England."

* The Leicester City midfielder Neil Lennon will decide by tomorrow whether to accept an offer to join Celtic.

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