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 April 26, 2002 | 1955 IST

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Eriksson must select McManaman, says Zidane

France playmaker Zinedine Zidane, the world's most expensive footballer, has urged England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson to take his Real Madrid team mate Steve McManaman to the World Cup finals.

McManaman was widely criticised for his performance in England's World Cup qualifying win over Albania last September and has not played for his country since a 2-2 friendly draw with Sweden the following month.

But Zidane, twice FIFA's World Player of the Year, was quoted as telling the Daily Mirror on Friday: "I was very surprised when McManaman was left out of the last England squad.

"I couldn't believe that they would ignore a player of his quality.

"Now people are talking about the fact that maybe he will get his chance because David Beckham is injured.

"But McManaman is far better than just being a replacement for Beckham. McManaman should be in the starting line-up anyway.

"Picking him now would be a very smart move because McManaman is in the mood to start proving people wrong.

"If Eriksson gave him the chance he deserves, he could prove to all the people and to Eriksson that he should have been there all along."


Zidane, who cost Real Madrid a record 64.4 million dollars when he moved to the Spanish club last July from Juventus, added: "If England did not pick him, it would be a terrible waste, both for the side and for McManaman.

"If they don't take him to the World Cup, I know they'll regret it."

England and France may well meet in the second round of the finals in South Korea and Japan -- should England finish second in group F behind tournament favourites Argentina and the holders end up on top of group A.

"We know that we might have to play England in the second round but, even though we are world champions, that would not be an easy game for us," said Zidane.

"We know what good English players there are at Manchester United and Arsenal, and I hope we don't meet that early.

"If we do, then of course I would expect us to win...Of course, if McManaman was playing in that game, England might get a little bit closer."

McManaman answered his critics earlier this week by coming off the bench against Barcelona, 12 minutes from the end, to score a fine goal that earned Real a 2-0 victory in their Champions League semifinal first leg.

McManaman's intervention has helped make the Spanish first division side runaway favourites to reach next month's final in Glasgow.

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