The sights, smells and sounds of la dolce vita in another country can be tempting for some players. On the one hand it may be an upheaval for some to leave their home town or neighbourhood for some it can open up several doors. It gives players the chance to take advantage of a brand new culture and surround themselves with an altogether different experience. For some who move to another club it can also be tricky in a number of ways. This includes becoming accustomed to traditions as well as a possible language barrier which some may have to overcome.
For some players, it can take weeks to adjust, while for others it can be a much longer period of time to settle in. When it comes to English players overseas, there have been very few and far between in the last three or four decades.
Some of the initial flurry of English players who sought a little sun, sea and sand took place during the 1960s. This featured ex-Tottenham Hotspur legend Jimmy Greaves who moved to Italian giants AC Milan for around $110,000. Trevor Francis was another player who had a yearning to play abroad and ended up in Sampdoria back in 1982. The former Nottingham Forest striker is most famous for his winning header in the 1979 European Cup Final against Malmo.
Fast forward to modern footballing times and once again, English players are thin on the ground as far as moving overseas is concerned. There is Ashley Cole who made the move from Chelsea in 2014 to AS Roma not to mention Anton Ferdinand. The brother of Rio Ferdinand moved to Turkish side Antalyaspor in August 2013 but was released at the end of the season.
Making it abroad is certainly a tough nut to crack. But which English players actually managed to make a name overseas?
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10 Gerry Hitchens
The ultimate dream of playing abroad for a glamorous club is very rare for some players. However, the example of Gerry Hitchens is certainly one to admire. He had the ability to adapt very quickly to life on the continent and made a long term switch. At the beginning of his career, Hitchens started off with Aston Villa and the Bluebells of Cardiff City. The English international made the move to Inter Milan at the beginning of the 1960s in what was to become a real success story. Hitchens embarked on a long career in Italy which was to endure nearly a decade. He had successful periods with the likes of Torino as well as Cagliari and Atlanta.
9 Kevin Keegan
Considered to be one of the trendsetters when it came to perm haircuts in the 70s, Liverpool winger Kevin Keegan bucked the trend for English players abroad. The former Scunthorpe United man enjoyed plenty of success in the 70s overseas where fashion and football both ran hand in hand. Keegan went on to sign for Hamburg in the German Bundesliga and whilst there gathered a wealth of plaudits and accolades. This featured winning the European Footballer of the Year award on two separate occasions. In addition to this, Keegan was an integral part of the Hamburg side which went on to win the German title in 1979. They also reached the 1980 European Cup Final where they were narrowly defeated by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. Keegan was a fans favourite during his three years and later returned to Blighty to sign for Southampton in 1980.
8 Steve McManaman
A rising star in the Premier League at the time, Steve McManaman came through the ranks at Liverpool. His tricky wing play was a real joy to behold and was soon to attract a number of different clubs abroad. This included Real Madrid and as a result, McManaman signed on the dotted line for Los Blancos back in 1999. Madrid was to be an excellent destination for the player as he spent four wonderful seasons there. He made more than 150 appearances in the white shirt and gained plenty of success along the way. McManaman not only achieved two La Liga titles but he went on to win the UEFA Champions League twice.
In 2000, he scored one of the goals in the Champions League final as Madrid defeated Spanish rivals Valencia by three goals to nil. Consequently, he was the first Englishman to pick up the trophy. Furthermore, McManaman was blessed in the fact that he played alongside several greats such as Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane.
7 Glenn Hoddle
He made his name whilst playing for Spurs over 10 years but Glenn Hoddle did make a name for himself elsewhere. His two footed ability was second to none and his knowledge of reading the game was just as impressive. Hoddle made the move to Monaco where he was to play under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger. During his spell, Hoddle was to become a significant influence in the club’s success on the field. This included a Ligue 1 title, Monaco’s first one for the best part of seven years. Meanwhile, Hoddle was also named the Best Foreign Player in the League in the same year.
6 Gary Lineker
Now a TV pundit for the BBC, Gary Lineker rose to stardom while playing for England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Lineker bagged six goals during England’s World Cup campaign and was awarded with the honour of the Golden Boot Award. This was to be one of England’s most controversial tournaments and the Three Lions were knocked out by Diego Maradona's Argentina and the infamous “Hand of God” incident.
Yet, Lineker was to move abroad and sign for Barcelona in a deal valued around $4 million. At the time, Barcelona was under the helm of fellow Englishman Terry Venables. In his first season for the Catalan club, Lineker scored an impressive 21 times. The highlight featured a hat trick which came against arch rivals Real Madrid. Other trophies which came his way included the Copa Del Rey and European Cup Winners' Cup.
5 David Platt
Former England international David Platt is well known for his extra time winner in the dying seconds against Belgium. This took place at Italia 90 where they eventually lost to West Germany on penalties. However, Platt was deemed to be successful during his foreign travels. The midfielder spent four years in Italy and signed for Bari. In 1993, he put to pen to paper on a deal with Serie A outfit Juventus and went on to win the UEFA Cup with Juventus. Flash forward 12 months and Platt joined Sampdoria where he was to pick up the Coppa Italia.
4 Laurie Cunningham
One of the first English black players to ever play abroad, Laurie Cunningham had a spell on the continent. Being the first ever player from the UK to play for Real Madrid is one impressive feat that he held. After his transfer from West Bromwich Albion in 1979 for just under $2.5 million, the winger enjoyed a decent first season whilst playing at the Bernabeu. In his first campaign for Madrid, Cunningham scooped a domestic double. Unfortunately this was to be the pinnacle of his footballing career abroad as injury plighted the player. Tragically in 1989 at just 33 years of age, Cunningham passed away in a road traffic accident in Madrid.
3 John Charles
Back in the 1950’s when Elvis was making waves across the world, John Charles was causing a stir all of his own. In the summer of 1957, Charles signed for Juventus in what was at the time considered to be a British record transfer fee. In fact Charles was ground breaking in his own right as he was one of the very first Brits to play overseas. He received lots of adulation as Charles spent five glorious years playing in Serie A.
This particular stint was so impressive that he was voted as the best ever overseas player by the club in 1997. Charles beat off stiff competition for the title including the likes of both Michel Platini and French icon Zinedine Zidane. He made over 150 appearances for the club and scored more than 90 goals during his spell. Charles also helped Juventus to achieve three Italian league titles and the Coppa Italia on two separate occasions.
2 Paul Gascoigne
Without question, Paul Gascoigne was one of England’s brightest stars on the football pitch. Gazza as he is most fondly known offered bags of raw talent which he unleashed on the hallowed turf. His natural gift was mesmerizing which drew crowds by the thousands. Initially, Gazza spent time playing for his home town club of Newcastle United. He then joined Tottenham Hotspur and it was from White Hart Lane where he made the big move.
Serie A side Lazio paid in excess of $9 million in order to capture the Geordie boy’s signature. Although he had his ups and downs on the field for the club, there is no doubt the impact he made on the fans. Gazza’s antics and on field performances achieved cult figure status at the Roman club. Even to this day, he is still respected and when Lazio plays Spurs in a European clash; there were several huge banners paying homage to the charismatic player from Tyneside.
1 David Beckham
There is only one David Beckham and his effect on the game in the MLS continues even after his retirement. He certainly enjoyed an illustrious career playing for some of the most recognisable teams on the planet. From Manchester United to Real Madrid, Paris Saint Germain and AC Milan, Beckham achieved iconic status both on and off the field. He has played with a host of prestigious talent across his career from Paul Scholes and Roy Keane to Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane to name but a few.
Meanwhile, his multi-million dollar sponsorship endorsements coupled with marrying “Posh Spice” Victoria Beckham ensured the boy from Leytonstone has done more than just good. Beckham also enjoyed a successful period with the L.A. Galaxy bringing home the MLS Cup. He is recognized in all four corners of the world and his global appeal makes him questionably the most famous English player of all time.
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