South Africa’s all-time leading scorer Benni McCarthy recalls his days with RC Celta and, having also played in Netherlands, Portugal and England, says LaLiga is the best in the world.
Benni McCarthy played in LaLiga with RC Celta between 1999 and 2003 when the Galicians were regular competitors in Europe. “I have a lot of great memories,” McCarthy told LaLiga. “We had a fantastic team at the time. I played alongside the likes of Claude Makelele, Aleksandr Mostovoi, Valeri Karpin, Gustavo Lopez, the current Celta manager (Eduardo Berizzo) and Mazinho.”
Pressed for a favourite moment, he said: “In the Europa League when we beat Juventus 4-0 in Vigo, and I scored two goals. That was a fantastic memory and a historical moment for the club to beat a giant like Juventus.”
McCarthy is still South Africa’s leading scorer with 32 goals but is now working as an assistant coach at Belgian Premier League club Sint-Truidense (STVV) as he looks to carve a career in management. The 38-year-old picked up a Champions League winner’s medal with Porto in 2004 and also turned out for Ajax Amsterdam, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United during his time in Europe, before hanging up his boots.
“My honest opinion is that LaLiga is the best league in the world. If we talk in football terms, when you look at the way Spanish teams play, I think football is just art. Spain is the prime example for me, you enjoy watching it because you see such marvellous players on display. I think Spain does have more art in their football.”
On Saturday, LaLiga are hosting their first Free Fan Day in Cape Town where the game between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will be shown on a giant screen. The event, which will include various activities for kids, and will also be attended by Liga BBVA Ambassadors Patrick Kluivert and Gaizka Mendieta.
“La Liga is very popular…(but) I think now with La Liga doing this, it will start opening people’s minds to Spanish football, and I think La Liga’s status will grow in South Africa. I am a huge follower of Celta, my old team, and I always want them to do well, so I’m always tuning in. Obviously, how can you not love Barcelona and Real Madrid.”
Asked for a prediction on the Madrid derby, McCarthy had a particular preference.
“I hope Real Madrid get one over on Atletico, because the last three years I think it’s not been a very sweet taste for Madrid fans,” he said. “(Atletico) have become so much stronger in the Madrid derbies. But I think now with Zidane in command, I think the players are playing with a bit more belief and they’re playing to their strengths, so hopefully that will have a huge impact on the derby. I’m going to go 2-1 Real Madrid.”
Scratching below the surface, McCarthy revealed part of his reasoning: “Atletico was not a very happy hunting ground for me, we always got caned at the Calderon. They’re a difficult team, at least they were for me.”