The Premier League has been awash with foreign players ever since the early 90s, and no one can say that most didn’t add to the quality of the product.
England’s top flight simply wouldn’t have been the same without having the best that the continent has to offer on show.
Until recently, there were very few British footballers willing to make the opposite journey and, in fact, you could probably count them on the fingers of one hand.
Beckham, Owen, McManaman, Woodgate…
Go a little further back and there’s Hughes, Lineker, Hateley, Wilkins and Blisset et al, but it’s clearly been a trickle of talent from Blighty who’ve been adventurous enough to ply their trade in Spain, Italy, Germany or France. Or elsewhere for that matter.
Once Gareth Bale made the move to Real Madrid back in 2013, it was expected to herald a new era for British players in Europe, but only recently have we started to see that trickle become a stream.
Jadon Sancho has set the Bundesliga alight for Borussia Dortmund; Reece Oxford, formerly of West Ham, has been solid for Augsburg.
Chris Smalling has taken the plunge to join Roma, whilst former Spurs player, Kieran Trippier, is having the time of his life at Atletico Madrid. There are others too.
All have understood that being ‘out of sight’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘out of mind’ when it comes to international recognition, and though none would consider themselves as trailblazers, they’ve opened up channels of work that were hitherto untapped for the majority of British talent.
In Sancho’s case certainly, it has allowed the 19-year-old to get over 50 first-team matches under his belt before he’s out of his teens.
That’s unlikely to have been afforded him had he stayed at Manchester City.
Yes, it’s a risk moving to a new country. There are language and cultural barriers to get over if you want to be a success, but the language of football is the same in every country.
If, as a younger player particularly, you’re being given the opportunity to spread your wings on a regular basis, you’d be foolish not to take it.
Young Louie Barry has done just that, leaving West Brom for Barcelona, albeit he’s yet to make a start because of red tape. That he’s willing to move offers an insight into the mindset of today’s younger players.
In the end, it’s a ‘win-win’ too, because national teams can only benefit from players having been given that trust and experience.
With progressive coaches such as Gareth Southgate now in charge, rather than the old dinosaurs the Premier League once gave a home too, doors remain open and not closed.
The times, they are a changin’…