This past weekend, Wayne Rooney put pen to paper on a new contract with Manchester United which will keep him at Old Trafford for another 4 years until 2019. This contract extension means that Rooney will play a major part in Manchester United's future as they continue to rebuild and move on from Sir Alex Ferguson's dynasty, and also ending the rumored interest of Chelsea and Real Madrid (at least for now). It is also safe to say that we'll never see Wayne Rooney in his prime playing in a top league outside of England, since he will be 33 years old by the time his contract is up.
There were times before the Premier League where English players tried their luck abroad with some degree of success. Kevin Keegan spent three season with Bundesliga side Hamburg, where he won the league title and back-to-back European Footballer of the year awards. Gary Lineker played for Barcelona between 1986 and 1989 where he won a Copa del Rey and a European Cup Winner's Cup. David Platt played for three Serie A sides in the 90s, winning the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana with Sampdoria, having previously won the UEFA Cup with Juventus. Last but not least, Steve McManaman helped Real Madrid win their 8th and 9th Champions League trophies, just two of eight trophies he collected while at Madrid.
Now, can you name at least one English player who currently plays in Serie A, Ligue 1, or La Liga? Well this a trick question because none of those league have any players coming from England. In fact, based on UEFA country coefficient for the top 5 league in Europe (excluding England), you will find only three English players playing in those leagues, Michael Mancienne (Hamburg SV, Bundesliga), Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon, Primeira Liga) and Matt Jones (Belenenses, Primeira Liga), all of them are not exactly household name. Compared to the 70s, 80s, and 90s, its obvious that the times they are a changin'.
English players are missing something by not playing elsewhere in Europe's top league. Sure there are a lot of challenges when it comes to playing abroad such as adapting to the culture, settling in (which is not easy especially if you have a family). While on the pitch, the pace of the game, tactics, and training methods may have been different. But who's to say that you won't learn a thing or two from it? Playing in those top leagues can give a football experience (and life experience) that English players won't get in England. Leighton Baines for example, he's easily going to be England's starting left back in this summer's World Cup, but at the same time in the last 4 years with Everton (including this one) he hasn't played in Europe. I think a player of his quality can hold his own in other top European leagues, and if he can't, then he gets to challenge himself and improve, which can only be good for him and the national team.
Further, a player shouldn't be concerned about being overlooked by the national team just because they are playing abroad, in fact it could actually boost their chances. Players like Laurent Koscielny was not a known quantity back in France, but making the move to the Premier League and testing himself in the Champions League actually earned him a call-up from Les Bleus, now would that happen had he stayed with Lorient in Ligue 1? Maybe, but playing with Arsenal he managed to expose himself to a larger audience with tougher competitions, which surely plays a huge factor when it comes to national team selection. Even an established player like Miroslav Klose who moved to Lazio in Serie A still gets regular appearance with the national team. Moving from Italian champions, Juventus to Sunderland, didn't hurt either for Emanuele Giaccherini who still get called up by Cesare Prandelli.
So for English players playing for mid-table clubs such as Andy Carroll, Fabian Delph, or our baller of the week Bradley Johnson, or those struggling to break into the first team like Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair and Martin Kelly, and even household names like Leighton Baines or Aaron Lennon, a move abroad should not be ruled out as an option, it might even do them a lot of good.
What do you think of England players moving abroad? Will it do them good or harm? Vote and let us know in the comments below!