Most saw Luis Suarez as the icon of Atletico Madrid’s La Liga title success this season. Marcos Llorente, who notched 12 goals and 11 assists, was another viewed as key to their triumph with Yannick Carrasco also impressive over the course of the campaign. Those closely associated with the club, though, know just how much Kieran Trippier contributed.
Trippier took a risk by swapping North London for the Spanish capital two years ago. He was first choice at right back for club and country, but an underwhelming 2018/19 season prompted the 30-year-old to reflect on where he could improve. Atletico Madrid offered Trippier an opportunity to achieve this.
Under Diego Simeone, Trippier has tightened up several areas of his game. The back three system used by Atleti for the majority of this season offered the England international protection, but Trippier has addressed many of his previous defensive vulnerabilities. Simeone’s influence in the 30-year-old is clear.
Always a strong crosser of the ball, Trippier has given Atletico Madrid another dimension down the right wing. When he was suspended for 10 matches due to a violation of betting regulations, Atleti lost their way. When Trippier returned, they found their groove again, building the momentum that ultimately carried them to the Spanish title.
Sunday saw Trippier lift the first major trophy of his career. He has been repaid for his drive to always improve his game, and for the gamble he made in making the switch to Spain. Trippier’s success should convince more English players of the benefits of testing oneself abroad. There’s much more to football than just the Premier League.
Can you name these England one-cap wonders?
David Beckham discovered this at AC Milan, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain. Steve McManaman was another who took the chance to prove himself in another country, winning the Champions League twice as a Real Madrid player alongside the likes of Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.
While not an Englishman, Gareth Bale was repaid for having the ambition to leave the Premier League for the Spanish capital eight years ago. The Welshman’s legacy at Real Madrid has been tainted by the events of the last few years, but Bale is a four-times Champions League winner and one of the most decorated players Britain has ever produced.
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a number of English players move abroad - see Paul Gascoigne, Glenn Hoddle, Gary Lineker and Chris Waddle - but this was simply a case of the country’s brightest talent following the money. At this time, English clubs were banned from European competition. English players’ only way to compete for the biggest honours was to leave their homeland.
These days, the dynamic is different. The Premier League is widely seen as the best league in the sport. It’s certainly the most lucrative. This doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities elsewhere, though. Trippier’s success over the last two seasons proves this. The sight of the La Liga trophy in his hands should tempt some of Trippier’s countrymen to become expatriates.
Some like Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho have already taken the plunge by testing themselves in the Bundesliga. Not for decades has the stock of English-grown players been so high. Previously seen as technically and mentally under-developed, English academy products are now in vogue across the continent.
Glory for England at Euro 2020 could make them even more attractive. Just as there was a thirst for Spanish players after the 2010 World Cup, English players could have their horizons broadened. Trippier has shown what is possible at Atletico Madrid. Others should make the leap and follow him abroad.
Most successful English players abroad
1. Kevin Keegan
2. Steve McManaman
3. David Beckham
4. Owen Hargreaves
5. Chris Waddle
6. Kieran Trippier
7. Glenn Hoddle
8. Gary Lineker
9. Jadon Sancho
10. Paul Gascoigne