Gary Newbon: Brits who reached top after moving overseas

Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid celebrates victory, whilst wearing his winners medal, with teammates after Real Madrid defeat Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Final match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid CF at Wembley Stadium on June 01, 2024 in London, England.
-Credit: (Image: David Ramos/Getty Images)

Jude Bellingham, at just 20, became a European Champions League winner with Real Madrid at Wembley eight days ago, reviving my memories of interviewing other British players who have won the coveted trophy with overseas clubs.

Three that spring to mind are Paul Lambert with Borussia Dortmund in 1997; Steve McManaman twice with Real Madrid in 2000 and 2002; and Owen Hargreaves with Bayern Munich in 2001.

To that list, after I left ITV and finished covering European matches, you could add Gareth Bale with Read Madrid in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2022 and now, of course, from Stourbridge, former Birmingham City and Borussia Dortmund star Bellingham.

Lambert later joined Celtic and as a manager was at Aston Villa.

He played a vital role for Dortmund in the Munich final 27 years ago by keeping Zinedine Zidane quiet in the Juventus team. The German team beat the Italian side 3-1, having led 2-0 at half time.

Lambert also provided the assist for Karl-Heinz Riedle’s opening goal in the 29th minute.

Sir Alex Ferguson was a pundit in the ITV team for that final. I remember the night before going out for dinner with Alex and Manchester United hero Dennis Viollet.

Dennis had survived the Munich air crash which killed eight ‘Busby Babes’ Manchester United players in February 1958.

The following year, still recovering mentally from the terrible crash, Viollet succeeded Bill Foulkes as captain.

Viollet was a fine striker and his 32 goals in 36 games in the 1959-1960 season is still a league record for Manchester United.

I only saw him play once, for Stoke City at Norwich. He had joined from United in 1962. After retiring he spent most of his management career in the USA and was still living there when we met.

I was thrilled to spend the evening with Viollet, who was engaging company. I clearly remember saying goodbye later and we both said we hoped we would meet again.

Sadly that was not to happen. Dennis died just under two years later at his home in Jacksonville, Florida, aged 65.

Steve McManaman has always been helpful with interviews and I am glad he has a role on TNT covering live football matches.

He was a fine player on the wing. Born in Bootle he played for Liverpool for nine years from 1990 before spending four years with Real Madrid.

Macca, as he was nicknamed, won La Liga and the UEFA Champions League twice, being the first English player to win the latter trophy twice with an overseas club.

Actually, he won eight trophies at Madrid and played in 11 cup finals in his four years there as well as making at least the semi-finals of the European Champions League each season.

He did me a huge favour in the 2000 European final against Valencia at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. The date was May 24.

If your country did not have a team in the final at that time, it was always more difficult to get an immediate post-match interview. I was not allowed an interview area on the pitch and instead was allocated one in the players’ tunnel.

I saw McManaman before the game and explained that I was there for ITV and we were live with the match and interviews.

I asked if he would remember to dash off at the end to talk to me, whatever the result. Not many players, to be honest, would have remembered and been bothered to do so. But I was quietly confident I could rely on Steve.

Read Madrid won the match 3-0. Steve, who was the No.8 and the only Brit involved, scored Madrid’s second goal with a spectacular volley in the 67th minute.

Before the cup presentation, Steve ran off the pitch and into the tunnel to give me a brilliant interview before dashing back in time to collect his medal and join in the celebrations.

I have always been grateful to him and have had the chance to remind him a couple of times since.

McManaman was a substitute for Read Madrid’s final at Hampden Park in Glasgow two years later against Bayer Leverkusen.

He came on in the 61st minute to replace Luis Figo but there was no further scoring with Madrid winning 2-1.

Zidane scored the winner just before half-time with an incredible left-footed volley that has gone down as one of the great goals of this competition.

Owen Hargreaves started in central midfield for Bayern Munich when the Germans beat Spain’s Valencia in a penalty shoot-out in the 2001 European Champions League final at the San Siro in Milan. It was 1-1 after extra time.

Hargreaves did not have to take a penalty and the seven who did managed to clinch it for Munich 5-4. Ironically, in the 90 minutes, both goals were scored from the penalty spot.

Hargreaves was born in Calgary in Canada but began his professional career with Bayern Munich where he spent seven years before joining Manchester United.

He qualified for England through an English father and played 42 internationals for England including the 2002 World Cup.

I covered the European Champions League for ITV from its rebranded start in 1992 from the European Cup until 2004 when I left to join Sky Sports as their new presenter.

Tuesday brings my sports comment column in conjunction with Utilita Energy in both the Birmingham Mail and the Coventry Telegraph.