English Footballers Abroad
He’s tipped to be England’s next best thing, but he’s chosen a brave path to reach the top.
Teenage sensation Jude Bellingham moved outside his comfort zone in 2020 to leave Birmingham behind and join German giants Borussia Dortmund – a career move that has already seen him make England’s Euro 2020 squad.
Bellingham has followed in the footsteps of several bright young English stars in recent years in opting to continue his career development abroad.
While English players playing abroad used to be a rarity confined to big-name stars – think back to Beckham and Owen at Real Madrid – it now seems more and more of Generation Z want to escape Premier League academies and try their luck on the continent.
Here’s our list of the most promising current English players abroad…
English Players Playing Abroad – Current & Future Stars
It’s a huge career step, but one many young stars are now actively embracing. Here are just some of the best young English footballers abroad right now…
JADON SANCHO – BORUSSIA DORTMUND
In 20 years’ time, he might be considered the pioneer who transformed English football.
We’ve seen English players move abroad before, but usually as one last pay cheque after a glittering career in the Premier League. Jadon Sancho changed all that with his move to Borussia Dortmund in 2017
The former Watford and Man City youth teamer decided to fast-track his way into the ranks of the European elite by joining a club renowned for fine-tuning bright young talent in Dortmund, and sparked a step-change in mentality from young English players in the process.
It’s fair to say the gamble paid off. After hitting 50 goals in just four seasons with BVB, Sancho is now one of Europe’s hottest properties, with Man Utd among the clubs thought to be eyeing up a near £100m move this summer. Wherever he ends up, Sancho will surely look back on his stint in North Rhine-Westphalia as one of his smartest career moves.
Thanks to Sancho, a move abroad now seems a no-brainer for players prepared to back themselves to reach the top by any means.
KIERAN TRIPPIER – ATLÉTICO MADRID
Trippier is that rarest of things – an Englishman who opted to up sticks and move abroad just as he was hitting his prime.
In truth, the 30-year-old looked like a man in need of a fresh start when leaving Spurs for Madrid in a £20m deal, and, given the turbulent end to the Mauricio Pochettino era, the full back probably made the right call in leaving the party while in full swing.
The Lancashire lad’s time in La Liga has been a successful one as he helped the side land a first title in seven years in 2020/21.
MARCUS EDWARDS – VITÓRIA DE GUIMARÃES
Could Spurs look back on Edwards as the one that got away?
Unless you’re an avid follower of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, Marcus Edwards’ progress has probably slipped under the radar – but be in no doubt some big names will be weighing up an offer in the very near future, including several Premier League sides.
The tricky left-footed winger has embarrassed plenty of Primeira Liga defences since 2019/20, scoring 12 times in just over 60 appearances, and is surprisingly adept at holding his own when challenged despite his diminutive 5’5 ½ frame.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is nothing if not shrewd, and the fact he’s included a 50% sell on fee should Edwards move on shortly should at least see Spurs benefit from over 10 years of youth development on the 21-year-old Londoner.
RONALDO VIEIRA – SAMPDORIA
The likes of Chris Smalling and Ashley Young have made a splash in Serie A since embarking on an Italian adventure. However, one player who continues to operate under the radar is 22-year-old former Leeds ace Ronaldo Vieira, who despite his Galactico-esque name is in fact an England U21 international.
Raised in Portugal, Viera moved to England as a teenager before rising through the ranks at Leeds. He played over 60 games for Utd in two seasons before making the switch to Sampdoria for £7m, appearing 44 times for La Samp between 2018 and 2020 before a loan move to Hellas Verona last summer.
OMAR RICHARDS – BAYERN MUNICH
The latest English youngster to move to Germany, Richards is setting his sights high at champions Bayern. After only having secured a place in the Reading first team for the last two seasons, and with a solitary U-21 appearance for England in 2019 to his name, the interest from the German champions came out of the blue.
With the 23-year-old left back in competition with Alphonso Davies for that position, first team opportunities are likely to be limited.
A dream move or a step too far? Only time will tell.
English Football Players Abroad: Five That Might Just Surprise You….
It’s not only big name stars who are worth a mention when you look through the history books of English players playing abroad. Plenty of less household names have opted to try their luck on the continent and further afield, while a few familiar Premier League faces also had a stint abroad – with mixed results…
One of the lower league’s most infectious characters, the ‘Beast’ has become infamous for bullying many an EFL defence during his lengthy career.
However, what you may not know is that the 39-year-old striker actually honed his talents in the Lithuanian A-Lyga. Akinfenwa plied his trade with FK Atlantas for two years, scoring the winner in the 2001 Lithuanian Cup Final and enjoying a UEFA Cup adventure.
Nearly 20 years later, he’s still a man made for the big occasion, helping guide Wycombe to Championship football for the first time in their history at Wembley in July 2020.
Played for: FK Atlantas, 2001/2
He’s the archetypal lower league journeyman. Now pushing 46, former Reading and Norwich ace Jamie Cureton is still donning his boots as player-manager for Enfield Town in the Essex Senior League. That’s the 20th club he’s played for in an enigmatic career that has seen him play in eight tiers of the English football pyramid.
However, one of the more unusual chapters of his footballing journey was a stop-off in South Korea in 2003, where he left Reading to sign for the K League side Busan I’Cons. It proved to be one of his less memorable career moves, as he moved back to England after a low-key six-month stint.
Played for: Busan I’Cons, 2003/04
OK, he’s technically Irish, but as a Plymouth stalwart between 2015 and 2019, he’ll be a familiar name to many an EFL fan after a decent career pulling the strings in the Pilgrims midfield.
The 32-year-old attacking midfielder decided to trade in life in the West Country for a stab at life in Eastern Europe after making a surprise move to Bulgarian giants CSKA Sofia in 2019.
So far it looks to have been a gutsy decision, with Carey playing over 60 times over the last two seasons, scoring six goals.
Plays for: CSKA Sofia
Leeds Utd bounced back to the Premier League in style, which has led to an outpouring of nostalgia about the Whites’ golden age in the division back in the early 2000s.
One player who helped lead that charge was Bridges, who hit 19 goals in his first season at Elland Road to help them qualify for the Champions League. Injuries would ultimately curb his progress just as he was reaching his peak, with his career ultimately fizzling out as he club-hopped around the EFL.
In 2009, he opted for a change of scene by moving down under – proving a hit with a five-year stay at Australian A League side Newcastle Jets.
Today, he’s a well-known TV personality in Oz as a pundit with Optus Sports.
Played for: Newcastle Jets
Wherever former Forest and Liverpool ace Stan Collymore headed during his career, headlines tended to follow – both good and bad.
However, his natural talent as a goalscorer was never in question, and that meant plenty of managers were prepared to take a risk on the often outspoken striker.
That tendency would see a career of highs and lows end in the unusual setting of Asturias, with Collymore agreeing an 18-month deal with Real Oviedo after leaving Bradford City. The trip abroad proved to be ill-fated as he played just three time before announcing his shock retirement at the age of just 30.
Played for: Real Oviedo
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English Players Abroad – Selected List
Spain Primera / Segunda
- Kieran Trippier, Atlético Madrid
- Jack Harper, Getafe
- Samuel Shashoua, CD Tenerife
- Arvin Appiah, Almeria
Italy Serie A
- Ashley Young, Inter Milan
- Chris Smalling, Roma
- Fikayo Tomori, Milan
- Ronaldo Vieira, Sampdoria
- Demarai Gray, Bayer Leverkusen
- Jamal Musiala, Bayern Munich
- Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund
- Jude Bellingham, Borussia Dortmund
- Keanan Bennetts, Borussia M’gladbach
- Omar Richards, Bayern Munich
- Reece Oxford, Augsburg
- Ademola Lookman, RB Leipzig
France Ligue 1 / Ligue 2
- Stephy Mavididi, Montpellier
- Jonathan Panzo, Dijon
- Noni Madueke, PSV
- George Cox, Fortuna Sittard
- Adam Le Fondre, Sydney
- Callum McManaman, Melbourne Victory
- Craig Noone, Melbourne City
- Jordon Mutch, Western Sydney Wanderers
- Matt Derbyshire, Macarthur FC
Greece Super League
- Adil Nabi, OFI
- Jay Bothroyd, Consadole Sapporo
- Danny Loader, Porto
- Marcus Edwards, Vitoria Guimaraes
- Easah Suliman, Vitoria Guimaraes
- Bradley Wright-Phillips, Columbus Crew
- Ryan Shawcross, Inter Miami
Turkish Süper Lig
- Aaron Lennon, Kayserispor
- Stephen Caulker, Alanyaspor