Football

Brits Abroad: Why do none of our players leave?

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Bale has flourished in a major league, but few others will make the transition abroad (©GettyImages)
Bale has flourished in a major league, but few others will make the transition abroad (©GettyImages).

For two decades now, the Premier League has been at the forefront of European football. Surprise winners and last day relegations have made it the most watched league on earth.

This is in no small part due to the incredible talents on display and the different things they bring to the table. But there is a notable difference between the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga. Those three leagues have almost no British players.

The world's most expensive footballer Gareth Bale is of course one of the few, but aside from him you are scraping the barrel for more British talent plying their trade abroad. The MLS can boast former England Under-21 captain Nigel Reo-Coker, ex-Swansea reserve Luke Moore and one time wonderkid, Giles Barnes. Australia are graced with Emile Heskey, and Turkey can claim Anton Ferdinand, but these are hardly comparable with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Santi Cazorla, world class footballers in world class teams. 

Whilst Jermaine Defoe is currently in the midst of his move to Toronto to join up with Steven Caldwell, he was no longer a first team starter for Tottenham and because of this, it's not comparable to the foreign stars who are in England - mainly because the MLS is not on the same level as the top European leagues. 

In the mid 2000s, the famous Galacticos of Real Madrid went crazy on English players, signing David Beckham, Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate, three of English football's top players at the time. But all three failed to reach the heights expected of them and with the exception of Golden Balls, didn't last long at the Bernabeu. 

Since then, Owen confessed: "I missed my family, my house, my old team-mates, the golfing, my dogs, the whole English package, even the rain."  That hints at perhaps a mentality issue holding back our internationals. No end of Spanish and French players end up in Britain, often as low down as League Two, yet none go the other way. 

In years gone by, before transferring between countries was as huge as it is today, British players had no qualms with leaving. Former England internationals Paul's Ince and Paul Gascoine both ventured to Italy in the mid '90s for differing levels of success, whilst before that England legends Gary Lineker and Kevin Keegan both achieved phenomenal success, Lineker at Barcelona and Keegan with Hamburg. 

Moves such as these are the equivalent to Wayne Rooney going to Inter Milan or Steven Gerrard aligning himself with Athletico Madrid; quite unthinkable. Whilst it is in no doubt that transfer fees have risen to ridiculous levels, could it be questioned that the reason English talents don't abroad because they are so overpriced?

Look at Stewart Downing, a man who was good at mid-table Aston Villa, no more no less. Liverpool paid £19million for him. Manchester City paid £4million less for Euro 2012 winner Jesus Navas.

Andy Carroll had scored 31 goals for Newcastle United, many of those coming in the Championship before Kenny Dalglish, in a mad panic, bought him for a phenomenal £35million. Robin van Persie and Alvaro Negredo combined, cost less than that. 

But why are clubs in Britain willing to pay over the odds for British players? Is it just a case of 'Well they scored against us, they must be good'? Or is it more to do with the scouting systems of clubs abroad, and that they are more comfortable signing players they know of because they think it'll be easier to integrate them into their sides?

It is no coincidence that as well as no players taking the plunge, an extremely small amount of managers do too. Current England boss Roy Hodgson and former national manager Steve McClaren are two of a select few.

McClaren is now flourishing at Derby County, and in an interview with Sky Sports, had advice to others thinking of trying out pastures new.

"Everyone should try it. It's not easy and sometimes you don't succeed but I would recommend it to any coach or any player to move abroad. If you get the right club it's a great experience," he said.

It is likely that if more Brits moved abroad, their respective national teams would benefit greatly from what the players would learn and be able to bring onto the international stage.

It's certainly not harmed Spain and Brazil. Could that be where England are going wrong?

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Topics:
Gareth Bale
Premier League
England Football
Michael Owen
Football
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