Steve McManaman: Why Snowfall can no longer be considered as the favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Steve McManaman: Why Snowfall can no longer be considered as the favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
Steve McManaman: Why Snowfall can no longer be considered as the favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

With two weeks to go until the highly anticipated Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Steve McManaman returns with his column to discuss the prestigious race as well as why St Mark's Basilica has been his standout horse of the Flat season, his expectations for the Jump season and where he ranks the newly retired Altior amongst the greatest ever two-mile chasers. 

Snowfall’s defeat in the Vermeille means she’s no longer the favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Is Snowfall still the one to beat going into the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe? Well after her defeat in the Prix Vermeille you’d have to say no. There’s nothing better than a good old race to change your opinion on a potential victor! For anybody who watches the sport and who had seen Snowfall perform the way she had all season, then you would be really disappointed with how she ran last week. She’s won by such wide margins in the past, that you can’t think that a small runner field at Longchamp can be used as an excuse for the defeat. Maybe there was an issue with travelling or something like that.

Snowfall has gone from being the favourite for the Arc to being fourth or fifth after her defeat. Tarnawa and Adayar must be the favourites now for that race, but that also depends on whether Hurricane Lane runs. I backed Hurricane Lane in the St.Ledger and he was mightily impressive. It’s going to be interesting to see which Ballydoyle horses turn up now, but seemingly Goldolphin hold a really strong hand if Adayar and Hurricane Lane run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

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This Flat season has produced some superstar three-year-olds, but for me St Mark’s Basilica has been the most impressive.

St Mark's Basilica has been excellent. He was very impressive over in France this season and for me he’s been the standout horse. Even though Adayar has also been excellent, St Mark’s Basilica has to be my choice for the most impressive horse this Flat season as he hasn’t really been beaten over the course of the year.

As we’ve said Snowfall has been exceptional this season but her shock defeat in the Vermeille was very disappointing. Hurricane Lane was also impressive recently in the Epsom Derby, finishing third and losing out to his stablemate Adayar. If all these horses are fit and well, then it would be great to see them all go head to head in the Arc as that’s the clash that everybody wants to see.

Altior has been retired aged 11 after a stunning career and he has to be amongst the greatest two-mile chasers ever. 

Altior has to rank up there as one of the best ever doesn’t he? Sprinter Sacre achieved the same, but then you go back to the era when me and Robbie Fowler owned our horse Seebald, then the likes of Moscow Flyer was around and was competing every week against other great two-milers such as Azertyuiop and Well Chief. I remember when Seebald was the favourite for the Arkle in 2002 at Cheltenham and he was defeated by Moscow Flyer and you just think to yourself that you’ve come around at the wrong time. Moscow Flyer has to be up there amongst the best ever, as he had longevity in his system. Mastermind was another brilliant horse, but he didn’t have the lengthy career that both Moscow Flyer and Altior had. 

Altior has to be one of the best considering he went 19 races unbeaten and as a hurdler he was excellent and victorious at Cheltenham.

I can’t wait for the Jump season to begin and there are many horses that I’m looking forward to seeing in action.

I love the Jump season and if there was a horse in particular that I can’t wait to witness then it would probably have to be Shishkin. We all love a superstar don’t we? Shishkin certainly has the potential to be one.

I’m also intrigued to see how some of the Irish horses manage the competition. We all talk about Cheltenham but then you see things like Envoi Allen struggling at Cheltenham and then being pulled up in Ireland, so it will be interested to see whether he can come back from those mishaps. In addition to that we saw Chacun Pour Soi look absolutely imperious in Ireland and then once he came to Cheltenham he looked a bit flat, so there’s another horse with a point to prove. It’s nothing against the horses, it’s just a case of certain horses performing better on certain courses, so that’s why I’m particularly keen to see Envoi Allen and Chacun Pour Soi in action. 

All these horses look like potential superstars in their own right and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham is the one that everyone targets. Last year’s Gold Cup was a great race but we knew a lot about the runners beforehand and there were no real surprises. Whether there’s going to be a three-mile chaser that can step up for the Gold Cup and cause a shock will be another intriguing thing to look out for during the Jump season.

Onto the football, Chelsea have impressed everybody in the opening few weeks of the season but in my opinion it’s Liverpool and Manchester City who are the favourites for the Premier League title this year.

At the start of the season I thought Liverpool were favourites for the Premier League title this year. If everybody remains fit and well then Liverpool, as well as Manchester City, will be the favourites as they’ve set the standard over the last few seasons.

Chelsea have improved their starting eleven by signing Romelu Lukaku and his signing can take them up a level. The way that they’ve played, especially how difficult they’ve made themselves to break down and beat means that they’re going to do a lot better than they did last season. However, they’re going to find it difficult to get ahead of Liverpool and Manchester City. Those two sides do it consistently over the last couple of years, whereas I haven’t seen Chelsea be at that level for a good while. They play Manchester City this Saturday which will be a great game and will give everybody the opportunity to see whether Chelsea are actually good enough to compete with Liverpool and City.

He may be Liverpool’s talisman but I don’t believe that Mohamed Salah’s rumoured £500,000-a-week wage demands will be met. 

I don’t think Liverpool would pay any player that much in wages. It’s hard to comment on topics like these as there’s possibly five different publications publishing five different sets of figures, but if there’s any truth in the £500,000-a-week demand then I don’t think Liverpool should pay it. 

Regarding the links with Salah to PSG, then most people would think that Ligue 1 is a step down from the Premier League wouldn’t they? Kylian Mbappé won’t be there next season and if it’s a couple of years down the line then maybe Lionel Messi won’t be there either. Salah would be almost guaranteed success by winning the French league and the French Cup but Ligue 1 is certainly a lesser competition than the Premier League and that seems to hinder PSG in the Champions League.

Harvey Elliott will almost definitely be able to bounce back from his injury

If you know him as a person, you’d know that he’s certainly got the character to bounce back. A dislocated ankle is a horrific-looking injury but it’s one we know he can come back from.

Has he got the right medical staff behind him? Yes. Has he got youth on his side? Absolutely. 

He’ll make the recovery and get back to what he’s doing best and I don’t think there'll be any long term problems at all.

Jordan Henderson is now 31, and with James Milner both his deputy and elder, it’s difficult to see who will be Liverpool’s captain down the line.

Captaincy doesn’t really bother me but it’s difficult when you look at the Liverpool squad. You would just go backwards into defence and give it to one of the defenders. If anything happened to Jordan Henderson and James Milner, I presume you’d give it to Virgil. He’d be the ideal choice, but he’s now 30. At the moment you wouldn’t necessarily give it to Joe Gomez as he’s too young and inexperienced. When you look at the XI that started against Crystal Palace, nobody jumps out who is going to be there for the next ten years and be a leader. Not yet certainly. You could say Ibrahima Konaté but he’s too young. There needs to be so much development and growing up and maturing. You could possibly give it to him in two or three years.

Erling Haaland may have been linked to Liverpool in the past week, but I think he may personally fancy plying his trade in Spain with Real Madrid. 

Do I believe Liverpool will be in the race to sign Erling Haaland next summer? No. I really believe there’s a possibility he will head to Real Madrid and I think the player personally fancies Real Madrid and the lifestyle that comes with playing for them. 

I don’t think the transfer fee is the reason that Liverpool won’t be in the market for Erling. I believe it’s all the other variables that come with signing a player of his calibre. He would command a big wage and once you pay one player a huge amount of money, then all the other players are going to want the same. Mino Raiola would want a tonne of money for not only Haaland but for himself too and I don’t think Liverpool would want any part in that.

Haaland’s Borussia Dortmund teammate Jude Bellingham is another player linked with a move to the Premier League and I certainly believe that we will be seeing him displaying his talents in England in the near future.

I’m sure we will see him in the Premier League in a few years time even though he’s no reason to leave the Bundesliga, and of course he may want to stay there and make a move to Bayern Munich for example. Either way, he’s going to be worth triple the £20 million or so that Borussia Dortmund paid for him a year ago. We all know what Dortmund are like in terms of allowing players to leave at the right price, so I’m sure they will only let him come to the Premier League on their terms.

Jude wants to be successful and being successful as well as playing regularly is a big thing for a young player. If Jude loves the German lifestyle then he may want to make a move to Bayern Munich potentially, as they’re really the only club you can join in Germany to guarantee being successful. Borussia Dortmund sell a star player every season and that immediately puts them on the backfoot when it comes to catching Bayern Munich in the league. Jude will certainly move on in the future and he will move for a lot of money as he’s an exceptional player. Dortmund has been the perfect stepping stone for him at this point in his career. He’s playing every week, he’s playing in the Champions League, he’s playing at a very high quality and Dortmund was certainly the right choice of club for him when he left Birmingham City. If right now he was to move to Liverpool or Manchester City then he may not be starting every week and playing every game. No disrespect to Borussia Dortmund but he will be playing at a better quality team in the future, no doubt. 

Would I like him for Liverpool? Of course I would. A move for a high quality young player such as Jude, where you can keep them for a long-time would make perfect sense for any club wouldn’t it? Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United would all take him because as their current midfielders get older, Jude would be the perfect solution for them.

Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans is good enough to play for an elite club but he wouldn’t necessarily be the ideal option for Liverpool.

I certainly think he’s good enough. He’s done really well and starred in this Leicester team and played very well. I also know he’s done very well in the Belgium shirt. But you’re trying to shoehorn people into areas where they’ve got loads of bodies there already. 

Do I think Liverpool will spend next summer? The answer would be yes. They’ll have a big pot of money next year when I think they’ll spend properly again. 

But it’s all just about picking the right area, whether you get rid of two or three in the midfield to bring in Tielemans is another thing. At the moment there is congestion. You’ve got Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott coming in there - younger players with huge amounts of talent - Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. There’s bodies galore! Do they need a Tielemans at this moment in time? No. He’s a really good player but I just don’t see where he fits in.

Though Curtis Jones has been linked with a move to the likes of Aston Villa and Leeds United, it wouldn’t make any sense for him to leave Liverpool.

I don’t think they need to sell him at the moment. And if they were to sell him it wouldn’t be for a huge amount of money. He’s not one of those players where you think he’s going to leave on a free contract. He just signed an extension last year. I don’t think it makes any sense for him to go. If he trains at Liverpool, if he plays at Liverpool - which he will do - he might not play 50 times a season but he’ll certainly play 20 times and play in Champions League games. If you’re training with the best players around, and I know the type of intensity Liverpool’s first team train at, I think you’re better off there to be honest. It has to be a decision to make further down the line if you’re not playing. But I certainly wouldn’t sell him as it wouldn’t make any sense for the club.

I don’t think a loan move would benefit him. Loan moves are for certain people. I think he’s fine at the moment. He just needs to be patient, like everybody does.

Even as a Liverpool fan, I want Paul Pogba to stay in the Premier League.

It goes without saying, if Paul Pogba were available on a free contract, a lot of teams would be very interested in him. But what’s best for him? He’s playing at Manchester United, he’s well loved. I don’t know whether he’d go to Real Madrid. I think the Premier League will still be better than the Spanish league next year, even if Real Madrid go and sign Mbappé, the quality of the Premier League will still be stronger. I don’t know the lad well enough and whether he’s happy here, but getting into October and not having signed a new deal - that’s ominous for Manchester United.

Both player and agent will probably be better paid if he left, and knowing Pogba’s agent, the way he is, and that the player will be able to leave for free at the end of the season, that would suit him.

Personally I’d like him to stay in the Premier League and play for Manchester United because he’s a star player with a big name and reputation, and everything that comes with that makes the Premier League more watched and more exciting, whether you like him or loathe him. His brand - along with Cristiano’s - makes the Premier League better.

I don’t know whether Kalvin Phillips will end up being Fernandinho’s successor at Manchester City.

They’ve got Rodri who plays that type of role but I always think there’s room for another - Manchester City do have a wonderful academy, so one of the lads may be there, ready to step up. I do see the under-23s and the under-18s and they’re always strong. They could have a chance.

But with that defensive role, it’s difficult to find people with a huge amount of quality. A lot of teams look for that position. People are talking about Manchester United needing someone in that position. We always go mad about Claude Makelele, who I played with and sing his praises at the highest level, and N’Golo Kante. Whether Kalvin Phillips is that player for City or whether they’ve got their eye on Declan Rice, I have no idea. At Liverpool, we have Fabinho, Jordan Henderson before him. It’s an extremely important position.

I do believe Pep Guardiola’s comments about Manchester City’s fanbase have been misconstrued.

I can understand Pep saying that. I certainly don’t think it’s a dig. When you’ve been across Europe and you’ve been to hostile away grounds, you want that to happen when you’re the home team. You want a really big, hostile atmosphere. I think that’s all he’s asking for. 

I think he understands the financial aspect. He’s not that naive. It’s just a manager frustrated after a game, wanting more support and a noisier atmosphere. You have to appreciate people picking what game they go to, especially when they have to fork out more money for it. The Saturday home games take care of themselves. A Champions League game when the draw only got made a couple of weeks ago is different. You can understand why less people go. I just think Pep was misunderstood.

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