Expat English Football Players?
December 23, 2008 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Where are the English football players in other European leagues?

I can't seem to find good examples of prominent English footballers playing for clubs outside the UK.

There are Brazilian, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and French players in almost every European league, including the English Premier League.

Other than David Beckham, are there examples of English footballers playing in first-division football leagues outside of the UK?

Why are English expat footballers so rare?
posted by MiG to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are almost none. Other than Beckham who is more or less finished at international level there isn't one member of the English National team playing outside England. English footballers are overrated, and most of them play in the hugely overrated English Premiership. Even there they are increasingly marginalised by foreigners.

Recent examples I can think of are Beckham, Michael Owen at Real Madrid, Iain Harte (terrible defender) at Levante, and Jonathan Woodgate at Real Madrid (decent-ish player, terrible spell abroad.)

Colin Kazim-Richards somehow managed to end up at Fenerbache in Turkey, and made a minor impact at Euro 2008. He's not very good, and his Turkish origins probably played a big part in his transfer.

In the past some big names have signed for European sides...Gazza, Paul Ince, Robbie Keane, Liam Brady, Chris Waddle, Kevin Keegan.

Scots fare just as badly, although the first British player to win the new format Champions League was Paul Lambert. He was also the first British player to win it with a non-UK team.
posted by fire&wings at 6:35 PM on December 23, 2008

Owen Hargreaves played for Bayern Munich before he moved to Manchester United.
posted by proj at 7:06 PM on December 23, 2008

Also, Jonathan Woodgate played for Real Madrid before he moved back to Boro.
posted by proj at 7:08 PM on December 23, 2008

I'd eliminate Hargreaves as he's actually Canadian and grew up in the Canadian soccer system until moving directly to Bayern Munich at 16. Meaning: I don't think the development program for English players is very good. They just produce average footballers who are hyped and overrated by the British media and fans.
posted by meerkatty at 7:55 PM on December 23, 2008

there used to be more in the past, especially in italy. there's less now i think mainly because the premiership in england pays enough for players not to want to move "abroad." in the past though, the inverse was correct, so often players would get a big money deal that a british club couldn't compete with. there was also a trend for the more "cultured" players to ply their trade on the continent. off the top of my head i can think of folk like hateley, wilkins, and souness. there was also some weird ones like alan "rambo" mcinally, a scot (like lambert mentioned by fire&wings), who was a real run of the mill player but got a move to bayern munich and was a big success there for at least some of the time anyway. similarly, gary o'connor ended up playing for locomotiv moscow after a transfer from hibernian, but soon came back due to homesickness etc. you need also to remember the "game" as played in the u.k. has become less different from the football played on the continent, probably because so many "foreign" players now play in the premiership, the reason being money of course.

so i guess my point is it's increasingly less attractive both financially and career wise for british players (especially in the premiership) to leave for sunnier climes.
posted by iboxifoo at 9:22 PM on December 23, 2008

Beckham did just join AC Milan. That's the one that came to my mind first.
posted by Camel of Space at 10:30 PM on December 23, 2008

Maybe I should've finished reading the post...
posted by Camel of Space at 10:30 PM on December 23, 2008

I am a fan of both Chelsea and the Three Lions, I don't really know why England doesn't seem to produce the number of top-notch footballers that countries with a comparable population and love of football do. Part of it though, I think is that England elevates a lot of players for reasons of popularity or media savvy.

John Terry to me is the biggest example of this - in my opinion he has been Chelsea's third best defender and yet he still carries the cachet of being the English captain. Beckham has big appeal and is still good in set pieces, but in the first recent match with Cluj he looked totally smothered - and for a guy who doesn't score a bunch of goals this was a big problem - Fabio knows this. I don't know if Beckham will make it to the 2010 world cup. Wayne Rooney, and Frank Lampard always seem oddly out of place on the England squad... even though they are very good players, and Lampard was a transfer target to an Italain club over the summer. I get the impression there are too many egos...
posted by Deep Dish at 12:07 AM on December 24, 2008

Hugely overrated EPL? I honestly think its the most exciting league on the planet. It proves the adage of the beautiful game to me. Other European and South American leagues are painful to watch. Did you see Man U beat Quito the other day - the chasm between the quality of the teams was astonishing.
posted by daveyt at 1:08 AM on December 24, 2008

Jemaine Pennant just turned down a move to Real Madrid because the offered salary was too low (£30,000/week).

Mind you, everyone's laughing at him.

Meerkatty: They just produce average footballers who are hyped and overrated by the British media and fans.

I agree that occurs to a certain extent. But look at results: both finalists in the CL last season were English. No English team was knocked out by a non-English team. In the CL final, United started with 6 English players (including Hargreaves), and Chelsea started with four. The English league is dominant at the moment. I suspect this, combined with a touch of Anglo-centricism among players, is the reason we don't see many English players playing on the Continent.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:35 AM on December 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all your answers. I take it there no others like Beckham, playing in a first division league outside of the Premier League? Though there were in the past, and may be in the future.
posted by MiG at 9:18 AM on December 24, 2008

I was about to pipe in with the Pennan story too - he wanted 60k a week, and Real were only willing to pay half that. The guy can't get on the Liverpool bench, never mind the first team, so I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the pay scales in the Premiership.

Steve Finnan - ex Liverpool and Republic of Ireland fullback is currently playing for Espanyol in La Liga. I know your question was about Enlgish players, but I think most would lump Scotland Ireland (North and Republic) and Wales in here. Born in Limerick, he grew up from an early age in the UK.

Keeping with the Liverpool theme, Welshman Ian Rush went to Italy for a year, but it is alleged he felt that it was like living in another country....
posted by Nick Verstayne at 10:11 AM on December 24, 2008

To further illustrate the point that there used to be a lot more British/Irish players at least spending a year or two abroad, the following also come to mind.

Chris Waddle - Marseille
Gary Lineker - Barcelona
Mark Hughes - Barcelona
Liam Brady (as previously mentioned) - 7 different italian teams
Des Walker - Sampdoria
David Platt - Bari, Juventus, Sampdoria
John Aldridge -Real Sociedad
Kevin Moran - Sporting Gigon
Mick McCarthy - Lyon

From the examples listed, you see I'm going back into the 80's and very early 90's.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 10:29 AM on December 24, 2008

And of course, Steve McManaman won the Champions League with Real Madrid as recently as 2000.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 3:04 PM on December 24, 2008

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