TOP 5 ENGLISHMEN ABROAD
The Premier League is one of the most cosmopolitan in the world, with players coming from as far afield as Oman, Barbados and Honduras. And as we get closer to home, perhaps unsurprisingly, the numbers of football emigrants increases wildly. As of last season there were Germans, Dutch and Frenchmen in the Premier League. Major international stars from football’s biggest and most successful nations are willing to ply their trade on these shores, away from their home countries, yet so few Englishmen are willing to take the plunge and move abroad. So let’s raise a toast to those adventurers, those trailblazers who left the comforts of home for the challenge of, er, playing football in a slightly different climate…
1. Steve McManaman
The willowy Scouser was one of the first English stars to take advantage of the rampant Bosmania that swept Europe following the seminal ruling allowing players to leave clubs for free at the end of their contracts, as he departed Liverpool at the conclusion of the 97/98 season.
Europe’s biggest club snapped up the old-school dribbler and Macca went on to enjoy both footballing glory and oodles of luvverly cash, all in the rather beautiful surrounds of Madrid.
After winning pretty much everything important in a remarkably successful three-year period, including scoring in the 2000 Champions League Final win over Valencia, McManaman returned to England to wander around the pitch, point at things and do a fat lot of nothing at Manchester City. Nice work if you can get it.
Real Madrid 1999-2003
La Liga: 2000–01, 2002–03
Supercopa de Espana: 2001, 2003
UEFA Champions League: 2000, 2002
UEFA Super Cup: 2002
Intercontinental Cup: 2002
The man they named ‘Mighty Mouse’ is a studied lesson in how to succeed abroad – pick a moderately successful club, try very, very hard, become a cult hero, lead your team to domestic and (very almost) European success.
Having been a big star at all-conquering Liverpool, the permed poacher surprised many with his departure from Anfield and his arrival in the obscure environs of Hamburg. However, he soon became the town’s favourite Englishman since the Beatles were rocking the Reeperbahn in the early 60s.
A first Bundesliga title for 20 years followed as did a journey to the European Cup final and recognition of the future England manager’s efforts were suitably forthcoming in the form of not one, but two Ballons d’Or – quite the step up from his early days at Scunthorpe.
Hamburger SV 1977-1980
European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d’Or): 1978, 1979
3. Chris Waddle
He may be more recognisable these days for being somewhat portly and for airing his forthright views in an incomprehensible Geordie babble as a co-commentator for ESPN and the Beeb, but the once bemulleted winger was once the scourge of full-backs across Europe. Having starred for Tottenham, Waddle took the plunge and made a lucrative move to Marseille on the south coast of France in 1989.
The wing wizard became a hero in France’s second city, where, playing alongside the likes of Cantona, Deschamps and Tigana, he won three consecutive league titles and reached a European Cup final; indeed, such was his impact, he was voted the 2nd best Marseille player of the entire 20th century (finishing only behind his team-mate, Jean-Pierre Papin).
Following a return to England with Sheffield Wednesday in 1992, Waddle was still exhibiting the élan that was his trademark in Marseille as recently as 2002, when he could be found turning out for the slightly less glamorous Worksop Town.
Olympique Marseille 1989 – 1992
Ligue Un: 1989-90, 1990-91, 1991-92
A breakdown in relations with, and a boot to the face from, Alex Ferguson caused David Beckham’s departure from his beloved Manchester United in 2003, when he left to be the next on the conveyor belt of infamous Galacticos at Real Madrid.
Beckham joined a team boasting considerable talents of Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul, Figo and, er, McManaman, but the England captain and his stellar team-mates had to look on as Valencia and Barcelona won La Liga in 2004 and 2005 & 2006 respectively. Luckily for Becks, in his final season at Real, under the strict management of his future England manager, Fabio Capello, he finally won the title he’d been craving, with Real being crowned champions in a spectacularly close title fight, on a better head-to-head record with arch-rivals, Barcelona.
The Leytonstone lad then left the greatest club in the world to join… the MLS. Whilst he claimed a desire to boost the image of the game in its biggest largely untapped market, many felt Beckham was selling out. He had a mixed time in LA, with two impressive loan stints at AC Milan angering Galaxy fans and frustrating those in England who felt he could still do a job in the Premier League.
The last hurrah for Beckham came at the nouveau riche of PSG, where he ended his career on a high with a final league title. It can’t be denied that Beckham has certainly been the highest-profile expat in English football history, and just think, he’s had stints in some of the true theatres of world football, the Bernabeu, the San Siro, the Parc des Princes and, er, the wonderfully evocative Home Depot Center.
Real Madrid 2003 – 2007, LA Galaxy 2007 – 2012, AC Milan 2009 & 2010, PSG 2012-13
La Liga: 2006–07
Supercopa de España: 2003
Los Angeles Galaxy
MLS Western Conference: 2009, 2010, 2011
Ligue Un: 2012-13
5. Gary Lineker
Having won the Golden Boot at Mexico ’86, future Match of the Day ‘Mr. Inoffensive’, Gary Lineker was a man in demand, and a, what was at the time, whopping bid of £2.8m took the Englishman from Everton to the sunny climes of Barcelona that summer.
Terry ‘El Tel’ Venables was the man in charge at the Camp Nou, and the crafty Londoner brought in England’s first-choice striker to partner the recently acquired Mark Hughes.While the Welshman struggled in Spain, Lineker took to the bright lights of Barca immediately, picking up the language, immersing himself in the lifestyle and, perhaps more importantly, banging in 21 goals in 41 games, including a hat-trick against Real Madrid. Lineker went on to win the Copa del Rey and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, before returning to England with Spurs.
As his career became increasingly plagued by injuries, Ol’ Big Ears pulled one of the most surprising transfers of all time out of the bag in 1992 by moving to the fantastically named, Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan’s largely unfamiliar J-League. Lineker only managed 23 appearances, but was a huge fan favourite and ended his career in 1994 a particularly adventurous Englishman abroad.
Barcelona 1986-1989, Nagoya Grampus Eight 1992-1994
Copa del Rey: 1988
European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1989