McManaman would pick La Liga triumph over UCL for Real Madrid this season

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Real Madrid legend Steve McManaman believes it could be more important for his former side to prioritise winning La Liga over the UEFA Champions League this season.

Los Blancos have had tremendous success on the continental front having won the Champions League four times in the past seven years, but have now gone two seasons without tasting La Liga glory.

The capital-based club have historically been Spain’s most-successful team with 33 league titles to their names but, having once been way clear of their closest competitors, now have Barcelona closing in on 26.

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS with: Liverpool & Real Madrid legend Steve McManaman

There has always been a romantic association between Real and the European Cup, but McManaman – who won two La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues with the club – gave an interesting answer when asked which he would pick out of the two this season.

“Barcelona have caught up greatly in their quest to try and catch Real Madrid in how many league titles they’ve won,” McManaman told FOX Sports Asia in a one-on-one interview.

“They’re closing very fast because they’ve won it four out of the last five times now, so I think this year it’s vitally important that Real Madrid do something to try and stop Barcelona winning, or Atletico, and the only thing to do something about it is winning it yourself.

“I certainly think they’re capable and got the squad available but let’s see what happens.

“Barcelona lost their first game the other day, they’re very reliant on Lionel Messi [and] we’ll see what happens in the transfer window until [it closes on] September 2, but it should be an incredibly exciting year.”

McManaman was speaking in Singapore on Tuesday on the sidelines of a partnership ceremony between La Liga and GCOX, which will see the two entities join forces to provide exclusive products, services, social interactions, football tourism and “money-can’t-buy” experiences for fans.

The intrigue over how Real fare this season has intensified especially after a testing summer for manager Zinedine Zidane, who has come under scrutiny for some less-than-impressive pre-season displays which included a 7-3 defeat to local rivals Atletico Madrid.

McManaman is no stranger to Zidane, having played together in his final two seasons at Real, and has backed his former team-mate to prove his critics wrong.

“I think he’ll be fine,” added the former England international. “I think what he wanted to do when he came back was to sort of refresh the team because the team is a team that have been together now for six, seven, eight, nine, ten years some of them.

“And I think he wants to turn the team around. Will he be given the opportunity and the time to do that? Probably.

“When you look at [the 3-1 win over Celta Vigo] last weekend and the people who weren’t there – Eden Hazard, [Ferland] Mendy, [Eder] Militao – these are big-name signings, so he’s certainly got the players capable of challenging for the league if not winning it.”