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Transfers - Football: Five English players who have thrived abroad

29 June 2022 05:35:24 EST
Chris Smalling has re-invented himself in Italy with Roma

Many English players prefer to stay on home soil with the Premier League on their doorstep, however, some have opted to head abroad for a new challenge.

It's still rare to see English players representing clubs outside of their homeland but the risk of heading abroad can often be extremely rewarding.

Whether it's a young player like Jude Bellingham opting to develop away from familiar surroundings or a more experienced head such as Kieran Trippier, who spent time with Atletico Madrid, the benefits can be huge for a plethora of reasons.

Bellingham has come on leaps and bounds since switching Birmingham for Borussia Dortmund, forcing his way into the England squad and earning experience in a new country.

Trippier, meanwhile, is a prime example of a player who had seemingly lost his way at Tottenham and jumped at the chance to work under the highly-regarded Diego Simeone in the Spanish capital.

We've taken a look at five English players who have thrived abroad - some from the past and some from the present.

Gary Lineker

Known better nowadays for his fine presentation skills on Match of the Day, Gary Lineker made a big name for himself on the continent in the 1980s.

After winning the First Division Golden Boot with Everton and picking up the same accolade at the 1986 World Cup, it was no surprise to see Barcelona come calling.

Lineker settled immediately in the Catalan capital, scoring 20 goals in 41 La Liga appearances in 1986/87.

The Leicester-born frontman added a further 16 league goals to his tally the following term and, despite being played out of position in his third season at the club, notched 11 across all competitions, including four in Europe to help Barca to win the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1989.

He departed the Nou Camp, having also won the Copa del Rey, to return to England with Tottenham in 1989 and is fondly remembered by Barca fans for scoring a hat-trick in El Clasico.

Chris Smalling

From non-league Maidstone United to the Premier League with Manchester United - Chris Smalling enjoyed a meteoric rise to the highest level.

The centre-back played for Fulham in between, making 19 senior appearances for the Cottagers, but he clearly did enough to catch the eye of scouts at Old Trafford.

Signed by Sir Alex Ferguson, Smalling spent three years playing under the Scot, making 83 appearances and forcing his way into the England set-up.

He appeared to settle but then went on to endure mixed fortunes under a succession of managers at United.

With game time becoming more and more limited under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Smalling accepted the chance to join Roma on-loan ahead of the 2019/20 season.

Playing under Paulo Fonseca, the defender appeared to adapt to the different style of football in Serie A quickly and he did enough to earn a permanent move the following summer.

Smalling has continued to thrive in Italy over the intervening seasons and, even reunited with former Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho, the 32-year-old continues to mature.

He was a key figure last term as Roma won the inaugural Europa Conference League and has been tipped to force his way back into the England squad.

Tammy Abraham

Staying with Roma and Tammy Abraham is another English talent to have made the most of his chance overseas.

A Chelsea academy graduate, Abraham really came to the fore during a loan spell with Bristol City in the Championship when he netted 23 goals in 2016/17.

He went on to dazzle in another second-tier loan spell with Aston Villa in 2018/19, netting a further 25 league goals to help the club to earn promotion.

Those exploits saw him finally given a chance at his boyhood club and Abraham hit 18 in 47 appearances across all competitions for Chelsea in 2019/20.

Abraham was unable to match those numbers the following season and elected to move to Roma in the summer of 2021 to link up with Mourinho.

It's only been one season, however, Abraham is already a firm favourite at the Stadio Olimpico following his £34million switch.

The 24-year-old, who scored 17 goals in Serie A, became the first English player to score more than 10 goals in a single Italian league term for 30 years, while he registered a further nine times in Europe.

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Steve McManaman

Steve McManaman came through Liverpool's academy before earning his senior debut in 1990 and he stayed with his boyhood club until 1999.

After making 364 appearances and netting 66 goals for the Reds, Real Madrid lodged an offer and the Bootle-born midfielder and he was on his way to the Spanish capital.

He arrived at Madrid during a time of crisis. Manager Guus Hiddink was sacked and Raul admitted he "felt sorry" for the new arrival after revealing the dressing room was a "cesspit of lies, treachery and whispers".

It's fair to say his first season, which played out under John Toshack and latterly Vicente del Bosque, was mixed as Real finished fifth in La Liga but went on to lift the Champions League.

McManaman played 46 times across all competitions during that campaign and had established himself amongst some seriously talented contemporaries.

He remained at the Bernabeu through to the end of the 2002/03 campaign and won a further European crown, two La Liga titles and the UEFA Super Cup.

Chris Waddle

Chris Waddle became the most valuable player in the world when he joined Marseille from Tottenham for £3.5million in 1989.

It proved to be money well spent by the French outfit as he helped them to win a first Division 1 title since 1972, finishing two points clear of Bordeaux.

Marseille successfully defended their league title the following term and reached the final of the European Cup, however, they suffered heartbreak in a penalty shootout loss to Red Star Belgrade.

A third successive league title arrived in Waddle's final campaign with Les Olympiens before he moved back to England with Sheffield Wednesday.

During his time with Marseille, Waddle was given the nickname "Magic Chris" by the Marseille faithful, while he was also voted the second-best player of the century behind Jean Pierre Papin for the club's century anniversary in 1998.

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