Would England benefit from more players playing overseas?

One of the factors which led to England’s ‘Golden Generation’ failing was supposedly for their dislike for each other.

Many played against each other at domestic level and so the national team’s cohesion never seemed to come to fruition.

One of Gareth Southgate’s biggest achievements as England manager has been to create a cohesion and team spirit that has rekindled English football’s love for the national team. This was shown in their successes at the 2018 World Cup and then subsequently the 2019 Nations League finals.

But despite all the improvements under Southgate, tangible success still evades the Three Lions…

england three lions

England’s national team has always been an anomaly in the sense that its squad has usually only consisted of players playing in the Premier League. This has long been disregarded as cause for England’s countless uncultured performances at international tournaments.

Brazilians’ mass migration to Europe over the years has allowed many different cultures to influence their samba style. The South Americans’ latest squad consisted of at least players playing in six different leagues (Brazil, England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy).

It seemed as though only a few British players would commit to the daring venture to the continent every generation. Some, like Kevin Keegan at Hamburg, enjoyed success. But many failed to sparkle in the same way as they did on home soil. Most notably, Ian Rush and Paul Ince struggled in Serie A with Juventus and Inter Milan respectively.

For understandable reasons, many were wary of Jadon Sancho switch to Borussia Dortmund. The teenager made the daring decision to snub Pep Guardiola and Manchester City for the promise of first-team football.

england three lions

Since, Sancho has gone on to dazzle the Bundesliga. This success leads to many willing Chelsea starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi to make a similar switch to Bayern Munich, having made his England debut before starting a Premier League fixture for the Blues.

The Premier League for all its quality has often struggled to nurture a wealth of home-grown talent. This season, bottom-placed side Norwich City gave the most minutes to players under the age of 21.

The Norfolk side were over 2,500 minutes clear of their closest opposition as well. It shows that players have to wait a little longer to be given a chance at the elite of English football. This inexperience has contributed to the naivety that has plagued English players on the biggest stages.

The taboo of playing abroad attracts so much pressure and attention when it does rarely happen. Maybe the misfortunes of those that have dared to cross the channel being so widely publicised have discouraged players. In recent months far more has been made of Gareth Bale’s personal struggles with Zinedine Zidane, than when the Welshman shone for Madrid in his early years in Spain.

bale ronaldo

This seemingly nation-wide policy has most certainly stifled the progress of many English talents. With British players usually operating within the British Isles, this gives them 20 potential teams to play for in the Premier League.

Many have opted to step down to England’s second tier, as opposed to taking that leap of faith over the English Channel. For young Spaniards, Germans, Italian and Frenchman there are 98 possible teams in Europe’s top five leagues where they could play football.

This is not to discount the leagues in Holland, Portugal and Austria which have nurtured some of the world’s best talent in recent times.

Add them in and you’re looking at 146 teams. The likes of Sancho and Bale have grasped the opportunity to play at the highest level away from home soil.

England’s last tournament squad consisted of players who all played their trade in one country. England’s latest squad consisted of players from three leagues, but only two players played outside of England.

It cannot be understated how much having a more balanced squad where players are important to international success.

Squads that are exposed to different cultures, playing styles and training methods are simply better at winning. Such variety provides the versatility and adaptability that England have evidently lacked in tournaments gone by.

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