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Although the Premier League is at the top of the ladder when it comes to domestic football, not all English players make it there – not to play regularly anyway. This is just a fact of the sport, and what tends to happen when English players don’t quite make it into the top flight? Well, they look for opportunities overseas, which is why you’ll see plenty of English players abroad throughout history. This has been happening for decades already, and the reasons for doing so are actually plentiful.
Whether players get selected for a high-profile team and find themselves out of the starting 11, they’re not satisfied with their role on the team, or they just fancy a different challenge – these are all reasons for English players taking their talents abroad. And throughout the information below, we will look at some of the proven successes of players moving abroad and those that have failed. So, let’s get started.
The success stories of English players abroad
Not only is Kevin Keegan a legend of the game from a managerial perspective, but he is also a legendary player – as many of you may recall. Keegan was phenomenal for Liverpool throughout the 1970s, playing mainly as an attacking midfielder and helping to set up plenty of goals while scoring a fair few himself. This attracted the attention of Hamburger SV, and Keegan made the move in 1977 to go and try his talents in the Bundesliga. Keegan then managed to win the Bundesliga two times in a row and he won the Ballon d’Or twice as well – not bad at all!
Ask any Englishman about in-the-box finishers, especially from an all-time perspective, Lineker is a name that would crop up time and time again as one of the best. Having enjoyed successful spells at Leicester City and a brief spell at Everton, Lineker was snapped up by Barcelona – immediately after he won the World Cup Golden Boot in 1986. While playing for Barcelona, Lineker scored more than 50 goals, won the Copa del Rey, and won the European Cup. Truly Lineker is one of the better success stories regarding English players abroad.
The failures of English players abroad
Collymore was one of the top strikers back in his day, having played for Nottingham Forest and Bradford City in the Premier League. His rather flashy and prolific goals for Bradford City led to Collymore heading to Spain in 2001, where Real Oviedo was hoping for amazing things from Collymore. Let’s just say that things didn’t quite work out as planned, as Collymore actually only played three games for the club, and subsequently retired from professional football having been there for just five weeks!
Good old ‘Gazza’ – love him or hate him, this man was one of the most talented players England has ever seen. And like many other players mentioned here, Gascoigne chose to move abroad after he had achieved great things with Tottenham in the Premier League. The move to Lazio carried plenty of promise, and when he was signed for more than £5.5 million in 1992, Lazio fans expected even more great things from Gazza. However, he never really fit in at the club, and he certainly didn’t settle. Not only did Gascoigne perform poorly on the whole, but he suffered a bad injury too, which ultimately led to him being sold after just three years.
Bonus – Gareth Bale
Many reading this might say that of all the English players abroad, in recent times, Bale is one that could be viewed as both a success and a failure. Sure, Bale managed to win the Champions League 4 times while at Real Madrid, but it’s no great secret that he never settled at the club. And if we were to be hypercritical, we could say that such successes only came because he was surrounded by a bit of an all-star team. In our opinion, Bale’s failure to learn adequate Spanish, his obvious unrest at the club, and his lack of fulfilment makes his Madrid move more of a failure as opposed to a success. Some may disagree, but hey, that’s football!
Why are English players still reluctant to play abroad?
The glory of the Premier League
We can’t shy away from the fact that the Premier League is still the largest league in the world, being the most prestigious, the most competitive, and the most financially rewarding for many players. This in itself prevents English players from moving abroad, even if they’re not making the starting lineup – as after all, they are still technically ‘playing in the Premier League’.
This goes hand in hand with what we’ve just mentioned above. With the serious financial compensation on offer through playing at a Premier League club, sometimes, players are happy to overlook the lack of playing time so that the big checks keep rolling in. Of course, there are others that don’t want to settle for this too, which is why some players are chomping at the bit to move abroad and prove their worth.
Language / lifestyle
If we were to look at things that impact English players abroad besides what actually happens on the pitch, these two elements are big concerns. Say that a player moves to Spain, they will need to try and learn Spanish, deal with predominantly Spanish teammates around them, and this becomes a challenge. There is also the lifestyle, which takes some getting used to!
Current English players abroad
In terms of current English players abroad, there are two guys that are currently making quite a success of it. The first of these players is Kieran Trippier, who moved from Tottenham to Atletico Madrid in 2019 – a move that has seen him make the absolute most of his talents on the pitch. And secondly, we have Jadon Sancho, a young striker who moved from Manchester City to Dortmund in 2017. He has never looked back from this move, and given the growth he has enjoyed since moving to Dortmund, there are rumours that clubs are swooping in for Sancho with £100 million price tags.