Britain is the birthplace of the beautiful game and the country has had an excellent pedigree within the game for over a century, producing many fine players and challenging on both club and international fronts, yet British players are notoriously poor travelers. Whilst German, Spanish and Brazilian players grace leagues across the globe and do so with relative ease, British players seem to find this task a little trickier.
Herbert Kilpin was the first British player to play professionally outside of the country, when he began playing in Turin, before eventually founding AC Milan. Kiplin won three Italian titles in 1901, 1906 and 1907, but sadly would not set the tone, and it would take half a century before another British player would have that kind of impact outside of the UK. Despite there not being a plethora of British players who have succeeded outside of Britain, there are some, and this list intends to celebrate the finest of them.
The entries and their ordering is ranked in accordance to their achievements and impact abroad. World class British players such as George Best and Gordon Banks may have played abroad, but their impact outside of Britain was not as great as those who make the list, yet may be lesser players in terms of talent. Here are the top 15 British soccer players to play abroad:
15 Mark Hateley
Mark Hateley played in three countries outside of Britain, namely the U.S., France and Italy. Having emerged at Coventry, Hateley had a brief loan spell with Detroit Express. A move to Portsmouth saw Hateley begin scoring prolifically, earning himself a move to AC Milan. Hateley was steady if not spectacular in Italy, winning his first England caps whilst with the club, where he spent three seasons.
14 Graeme Souness
13 Paul Ince
12 Gerry Hitchens
11 David Platt
Formerly Roberto Mancini's assistant manager at Man City before the Italian was dismissed of his duties, David Platt was a well-rounded midfielder on his day, known for his high work rate, accurate passing and ability to score goals from midfield. He won 62 caps for England, and scored a legendary volley at the 1990 World Cup. F
10 Paul Lambert
9 David Beckham
8 Gary Lineker
7 Laurie Cunningham
The first British player to play for Real Madrid and the second black player to represent England at any level, Laurie Cunningham was a largely underrated left winger. As part of the famous 'Three Degrees' at West Brom, Cunningham had great success in England, before going Real Madrid for almost $2 million.
6 Glenn Hoddle
5 Gareth Bale
4 Chris Waddle
3 Steve McManaman
Part of Liverpool's highly talented 'Spice Boys' that emerged in the 1990s, Steve McManaman was probably the most gifted of the lot. Like with the others questions remained over his attitude, and he failed to win a league title at Anfield. The Englishman left Liverpool in 1999, when he joined Real Madrid on a free transfer.
2 Kevin Keegan
1 John Charles
The most successful British player outside of Britain has to be John Charles. One of the most complete players the game has ever seen, Charles was capable of playing in both central defense and as a forward. It was sometimes joked that Charles would start up front, score, and then be moved to defense to ensure a win; and that was only partly a joke. After 38 goals in 40 games for Leeds United in the First Division, Charles joined Juventus for a British record transfer fee, almost doubling the previous record. He scored the winner in every one of his first three games for Juventus, and this set the tone for his time with the club.
In his first season, he was named the club's Player of the Year, won the league title and was the top scorer in the Serie A. In total, Charles played five seasons for Juventus, scoring 108 goals in 155 games and winning three Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias. He later spent a brief period of time with Roma, scoring four goals in 10 games. He was nominated for the Ballon d'Or and was later voted Juventus' greatest ever foreign player, seeing off the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini and Pavel Nedved.
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