- Steve McManaman and Michel Salgado discuss football in England and Spain
- Chelsea's pre-season outlay has impressed the Englishman
- The Spaniard raved about Ansu Fati
For the second time in the new 'Football Talks with FIFA Legends' series, FIFA invited the media to a virtual interview with Steve McManaman and Michel Salgado, who once played together for Real Madrid.
As in last week’s discussion between Laura Georges and Christie Rampone, the two legends spent around 45 fascinating minutes answering questions and discussing the latest news from the national teams and club football. Both agreed on one thing in particular: fans are very much missed in stadiums.
National teams have been back in action – what did you make of the national sides from your respective countries?
Steve McManaman: They were two experimental games for Gareth Southgate. He picked a lot of players who haven’t had any international caps and who he wanted to have a look at for the future. He also made a lot of substitutions. Of course he wanted to win the games, but he tried different formulations and players.
Michel Salgado: Luis Enrique brought some players into the squad who could be really important for us in the future. It was a really fresh and new squad. We had a tough test against Germany, one of the best national teams, with a late draw. Against Ukraine I think we were really superior.
And what did you think of Ansu Fati’s debut?
Salgado: The maturity of this kid at 17 years old is unbelievable. He can change the tempo of the game, and he has the bravery to go and take on defenders, which is difficult to find in modern football. I don’t want to compare him with Messi, because he is incomparable and we will miss him and Cristiano Ronaldo so much when they retire, but it’s possible that Barcelona will build their future around Ansu Fati. He’s so brave on the pitch!
What is your view on the English league, Steve?
McManaman: The transfer window is still open for a while yet, so I think teams will still do some business, but of course Liverpool will be one of the candidates to lift the trophy together with Manchester City. The one team that does stand out is Chelsea, who have probably been the most active in the transfer market out of anyone in Europe. They’ve brought in a number of star players like Thiago Silva, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech. Unfortunately I don’t think there’ll be many big surprises.
And how are things looking in Spain, Michel?
Salgado: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are of course the main contenders. Atleti in particular need to try to get back to basics, especially after the setback of the UEFA Champions League. They were expecting to reach the final, so losing in the quarter-finals was a big blow. I don’t expect many new faces at Real Madrid. Instead, I think young players like Rodrygo will play a bigger role. Sevilla could also be contenders, they’re playing well. Of course, Barcelona are in a difficult position – how will they deal with Messi?
Fans are so important in football – what do you make of the current situation?
McManaman: Personally for me, I’d love the fans to be back on Saturday when the Premier League starts, but that isn’t going to be realistic. We’ve been told that they are hoping to get a certain percentage of fans back in stadiums, perhaps in October. We need the fans in for the clubs to survive, but also for the infrastructure around the stadium. Of course we have to be safety-conscious first, but I think we need to get the fans back into games as soon as possible.
Salgado: The most important thing is health, and FIFA see it that way too. The first priority in Spain is to fix the country – that’s more important than fixing football. As a player I never played behind closed doors, but football is a spectacle! The difference between playing a match on the street and playing as a professional in a stadium is the joy you can share with the fans whenever you score a goal or perform well. That’s football! The players need the fans, and the fans need the players as well.