Why English players should move abroad

Following Ashley Cole’s move to AS Roma this summer, the former England international criticised the desire of English players to ply their trade overseas.

The ex-Chelsea left back said: “English players are probably afraid to come abroad. They’re in a comfort zone in England.”

Learning foreign training methods, tactics and techniques is only going to broaden the mind and make a player smarter on the pitch.

OK, in England, there’s an abundance of foreign managers who implement foreign methods. But they are all implemented for an English game.

The game is very different in Italy or Spain. How many English players can say that they have trained and prepared for an Italian or German league game? Not many.

The big clubs in the Premier League loan players to other English clubs, the majority in a lower division.

And yet, say, they instead loaned an under-21 player to a mid-table Spanish, Italian or German club?

He will develop competences from that league – the importance of ball retention, technique and defensive set-ups. It is unlikely that he will experience this playing for a League 1 side here.

In the past, English stars have moved abroad and, consequently, improved as players – like Paul Ince and Paul Gascoigne. Going further back, Ray Wilkins also.

Arguably, the most successful Englishman abroad was David Beckham.

He was the first English player to win four league titles in four different countries. With Manchester United in England, Real Madrid in Spain, LA Galaxy in the United States and Paris Saint-Germain in France in his final season.

Beckham also had two loan spells playing in a star-studded AC Milan team but failed to win a trophy with them.

4 reasons why not many English players move abroad


Pundits and the English media drill into the viewers and listeners that the Premier League is the “Holy Grail” and the best league in which to play.

Players take this on board and want to remain in the league, whether they are playing regularly or not.

For all the hours of Spanish football beamed to British TV and German success in Europe, there is still a certain ignorance of the continental game and its validity as a location for British players.

There is also a perception that young English players are unable to deal with the demands of living in a foreign country.

The stubborness to adopt different cultures and to adapt to different food and languages is something that a large proportion of players are unwilling to do.

Yet living in another country and taking in their culture can give a person a better understanding of how different people think, which can be transferred on to the football field.

In Italy, for example, people are generally quite relaxed and calm. In the month of August, all businesses are closed for holiday! And Italian players like to go at their own pace on the field, too.

Experiencing different types of cultures and a way of thinking can only enhance young English players’ development, surely?


The financial rewards in the Premier League are superior relative to other top leagues. So why on earth would you want to leave?

Joining a foreign club with a strict wage structure is not an attractive proposition for a young adult with pounds signs in his eyes.

The total wage bill, across all employees, of Premier League clubs in 2011-12 was £1,658 million (up four per cent), ranging from £202 million (Manchester City) down to £35 million (Swansea City).

For the 2012-13 season, Premier League clubs’ total wages are projected to have been circa £1,800 million. [Source: Deloitte]


Is a lack of Englishmen playing abroad down to the quality? Perhaps European teams don’t believe they are good enough or better than what they have already.

Combined with the wage demands, European teams may not feel it’s a worthwhile investment for their club.


Are clubs putting too high a price on English players?

Luke Shaw’s £27 million move from Southampton to Manchester United made him one of the most expensive defenders in world football.

And yet he hasn’t any silverware or a great wealth of experience.

If an Italian or Spanish full back with equal talent and potential went to Manchester United, the likelihood is that he would have gone for well under half of Shaw’s fee.


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