Who are England’s greatest footballing exports?
England players who have moved abroad, David Beckham, football

Who are England’s greatest footballing exports?

Jude Bellingham will become the sixth Englishman to play for Real Madrid after completing a move to the Spanish giants from Borussia Dortmund.

The England prodigy remains the only regular member of Gareth Southgate’s squad to ply his trade outside of the Premier League, having moved to Germany from boyhood club Birmingham in 2020.

Bellingham – who Madrid signed for an initial fee of 103 million euros – enjoyed a rapid rise during his time at Dortmund, captaining his club in the Bundesliga and the Champions League and earning 24 England caps as a teenager.

To assess his decision to switch to Madrid rather than a Premier League club, we have looked at past and present England players who have moved abroad.

Which English players have played for Real Madrid?

Bellingham will follow in the footsteps of Laurie Cunningham, Steve McManaman, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate by walking out at the Bernabeu.

Cunningham was the trailblazer when he signed for Real Madrid from West Brom in 1979. Despite being hampered by injuries, he scored on his debut and went on to net 20 goals in 66 appearances, winning the league and cup double in his first season. He was sadly killed in a car crash only five years after leaving Madrid, aged just 33, while playing for Rayo Vallecano.

McManaman made the move from Liverpool to Madrid, which Michael Owen later repeated, in 1999. The floppy-haired winger played alongside the likes of Raul, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane in the Galacticos era, winning two La Liga titles and two Champions League titles. He remains popular in Spain having made 158 appearances and scored in the 2000 Champions League final against Valencia.

David Beckham joined just as McManaman left in 2003, with the former Manchester United man going on to exceed his England teammate’s appearance tally. Owen and Jonathan Woodgate also played for Madrid during Beckham’s time at the club, although both struggled to make an impact.

Who are the best English exports?

More than 30 players have been capped by England while playing their club football overseas, starting with Kevin Keegan, who won 25 caps during his time at Hamburg in the late 1970s.

Bellingham’s 24 England caps have all come since he moved to Dortmund in 2020, which places him joint-sixth alongside former Barcelona man Gary Lineker for most international appearances while playing abroad.

Keegan is in fifth, behind Mark Hateley (27) and David Platt (33), who both spent a number of years playing in Italy’s Serie A. Owen Hargreaves – who won 39 of his 42 England caps while playing for Bayern Munich – is second, with Beckham topping the list on 55 caps won across stints at Madrid, LA Galaxy and AC Milan.

Voted Bundesliga Player of the Season in 2022-23, Bellingham is clearly held in high regard by clubs around the world following his impressive performances for Dortmund and England, with Madrid beating several interested parties to his signature.

The 103 million euro transfer fee is by far the highest paid by a foreign club for an English player, with Tammy Abraham’s 41 million euro move from Chelsea to Roma in 2021 having previously held the record, according to Transfermarkt.

Beckham’s switch from Manchester United to the Bernabeu – worth 37.5 million euros back in 2003 – remains the third-most expensive transfer of an English player to a foreign club, ahead of Fikayo Tomori’s move from Chelsea to AC Milan and Bellingham’s from Birmingham to Dortmund when he was just 17.

Who else is plying their trade overseas?

The age-old tradition of English footballers playing their club football at home continues to hold, with only a handful of players featuring regularly in top domestic leagues outside England.

Apart from Bellingham, Abraham, Tomori and Chris Smalling are the most prominent English exports, with all three plying their trade in Italy’s Serie A. Abraham and Smalling have established themselves as regulars in Jose Mourinho’s Roma team, while Tomori is first-choice at centre-back for Champions League semi-finalists AC Milan.

In total, English players combined for 9,791 minutes in Serie A last season, which was the most of any top division outside the Premier League. Remarkably, England’s La Liga contribution stood at zero minutes in 2022-23.

Having scoured mainland Europe for the best English talent, here is a team made up of Englishmen currently playing their club football overseas.

Goalkeeper: Etienne Green (St Etienne)

Green moved to France at the age of four before joining St Etienne’s youth academy five years later. The 22-year-old saved a penalty on his league debut in 2021 and appeared for England under-21s shortly afterwards, but he has since seen his career stall with long spells on the substitutes’ bench in the last two seasons.

Right-back: Jonjoe Kenny (Hertha)

Former Everton full-back Kenny swapped Merseyside for Berlin last summer and quickly established himself in Hertha’s first team. However, the team finished bottom of the Bundesliga and were relegated to the second tier.

Centre-back: Chris Smalling (Roma)

Four years on from leaving Manchester United, Smalling put together another impressive season for Roma as Mourinho’s men finished sixth in Serie A and reached the Europa League final. He has not played for England since 2017.

Centre-back: Fikayo Tomori (Milan)

Tomori remains on the fringes of Southgate’s squad despite his excellent club form at AC Milan. He was ever-present last season as Milan progressed to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since winning it in 2006-07.

Left-back: Lee Buchanan (Werder Bremen)

The 22-year-old Buchanan was mainly used as a substitute by Werder Bremen in 2022-23, having made a summer switch from Derby County. His best moment came in a 3-2 win against Dortmund in August 2022, in which he scored his side’s opening goal.

Centre midfielder: Ross Barkley (Nice)

Forgotten man Ross Barkley struggled to make an impact at Nice last season having been released by Chelsea in August 2022. He is set to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of June.

Centre midfielder: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)

Since leaving England in 2020, Bellingham has enjoyed a meteoric rise culminating in him signing for Real Madrid on a six-year deal. He is tasked with rejuvenating a midfield containing five-time Champions League winners Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

Centre midfielder: Angel Gomes (Lille)

Manchester United academy product Gomes is beginning to fulfil his potential at Lille, having made only five league appearances in three years at Old Trafford. The 22-year-old scored two goals and provided six assists in 36 games last season.

Right winger: Marcus Edwards (Sporting)

Capped 49 times at youth level for England, Edwards has flourished since moving to Portugal but is yet to receive a senior call-up. He scored two goals in this year’s Champions League group stage, including one against his former club Tottenham.

Left winger: Samuel Iling-Junior (Juventus)

Having joined Juventus at the age of 16, 19-year-old Iling-Junior made his first senior appearances for the club this season, including an eye-catching cameo in the Champions League against Benfica.

Striker: Tammy Abraham (Roma)

Abraham has gone some way to reviving his career at Roma having been deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea in the summer of 2021. However, his output dropped off in 2022-23 compared with his first season in Italy, when he banged in 27 goals in all competitions.

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