Contentious 10 – The Best British Players Abroad

It’s another edition of our ever popular Contentious 10 series. Today sees lover of Brits abroad and a man who is partial to a fry up and a flagon of ale in a proper British pub in any holiday resort in Spain, Neil Mason give us a run down of  his Top 10 best British players abroad. 


Do you agree with Neil’s choices? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @90minutecynic.

Here’s a topic that will hopefully stir up some debate. With the success of the Premier League, it’s become rarer and rarer to see British players trying to adapt other cultures and playing styles. In the past this has sometimes proved comedic (remember the Welsh goal hanger with the moustache?) but there have been some success stories.

Here’s my top ten – I excluded Owen Hargreaves as he was/is basically German and therefore didn’t have to adapt to a new culture.

Italian Soccer - Serie A - Juventus

1. John Charles

There can be no debate in my mind that the giant Welshman is the winner in this category. Charles’ time in Italy led to accolades that no other British player has had bestowed upon them.  After joining Juventus for a British record transfer fee of £65,000 he went on to score 93 goals in just 150 appearances between 1957 & 1962.  In 1997, as part of the club’s centenary celebrations, the Welshman was voted the club’s greatest ever foreign player; not bad considering the illustrious names that have played for the Old Lady over the years (such as Platini, & Boniek).  He was also outstanding in two different positions, centre back and centre forward.

kevin keegan head over heals in love

2. Kevin Keegan

The impact Keegan had on the fortunes of Hamburg between 1977 & 1980 cannot be understated. Despite a difficult first few months in Germany, and the team’s 10th place finish in the Bundesliga in 1977/78, Keegan still impressed and was named European footballer of the year.  The following season he was instrumental in Hamburg’s title win and was named European Footballer of the Year for the second season in succession.  In 1979/80, Hamburg reached the final of the European Cup where they lost to Nottingham Forest. Keegan then shocked HSV by leaving for…Southampton.

steve mcm

3. Steve McManaman

Bearing in mind the mixed fortunes of English players abroad over the past 20 years (yes, all 8 of them), nobody could have expected the success the Scouser would have at Real Madrid.  McManaman was the first British player to win the Champions League twice (in 2000 & 2002) and also scored in the 2000 final versus Valencia. In addition, he is also the first Englishman to win the Champions League with a foreign club. Real supporters may not have enjoyed his name, but McManaman was certainly one of the best (if understated) signings of the galacticos era.


4. Paul Lambert

Not many players make the move from Motherwell to Champions League glory within the space of 12 months. Not many players can claim to have put the shackles on Zinedine Zidane & created a goal in a Champions League final.  Not many players can claim to have been praised publicly by Roy Keane. Paul Lambert’s 12-month spell at Borussia Dortmund was so successful that he’s at number 4 on my list.


5. Chris Waddle

It’s hard to imagine that the guy who now struggles to describe football matches on ESPN was once one of England’s most impressive overseas performers.  Mullet aside, Waddle was one of the best technical players England produced in the 80’s and 90’s and he found his footballing home in the south of France. Waddle moved to Marseille in 1989 for £4.5 million (the 3rd highest transfer fee ever paid at the time) and spent 3 seasons there. Each season yielded a French Title win during Marseille’s most successful period. Dubbed ‘Magic Chris’ by his French fans (due his need to watch Paul Daniels videos to combat home sickness), Waddle was voted the second greatest Marseille player of the 20th century in 1998, only falling behind French legend Jean-Pierre Papin in the stakes.


6. David Beckham

David Beckham has played in 3 major European leagues, which by itself makes him unique. For arguments sake, his MLS career doesn’t really have any impact on my decision to place him at number 6. Beckham’s time in Madrid divides opinion – for me he was a success in Spain. Playing in the company of Zidane, Figo and Raul would be enough to make any player wilt, but Beckham’s talent and professionalism ensured this didn’t happen. Remember that this is a man who changed the mind of Fabio Capello after the Italian dropped him from the squad (after he announced his move to the USA). He-changed-Capello’s-mind. Some achievement.  He may have only won one La Liga title in his 4 seasons, but Beckham left a big impression on the history of Real Madrid. Beckham also had decent success with his time at AC Milan and also went and spent some time in France for some reason.


7. David Platt

During the early to mid 90’s, England had two midfielders plying their trade in Serie A. The contrast between the two men couldn’t be more different – the skilful, unpredictable Paul Gascoigne & the hard working, disciplined David Platt.

Although Gazza’s time in Italy wasn’t abject failure, his success pales into comparison when Platt’s statistics are considered. Platt’s first season in Bari (1991/92) yielded an impressive 11 goals from midfield (a stat even more impressive when bearing in mind that this was during the period when Serie A averaged roughly only 2.2 goals a game). His strong first season earned him a move to Juventus where he struggled for playing time, leading to his move to Sampdoria in the summer of 1993. His time at the Blucerchiati is perhaps what springs to British minds – Platt enjoyed two productive seasons, scoring 17 goals in 55 appearances and also winning the Coppa Italia in 1994. Platt remains one of Britain’s best exports to Serie A.


8. Gary Lineker

Lineker’s achievements in Spain seem to be overlooked when his career is summarised. He is more fondly remembered for his world cup goals, and perhaps this explains why his Barcelona career isn’t talked about more. His first season in Spain saw Lineker notch 21 goals in 41 games. He also scored a hat trick against Real Madrid and won the Spanish Cup and Cup Winners Cup.  Not many British players have settled into other cultures as quickly and successfully as England’s greatest scorer of tap-ins.


9. Steve Archibald

Steve Archibald moved to Barcelona for a fee of £1.25 million in 1984. He thrived in his first season in La Liga, finishing as Barcelona’s top scorer and winning the title (helping the club to their first title in a decade). Archigoals, as he was dubbed by the fans, also helped take Barca to the European cup final of 1986 where they surprisingly lost on penalties to Steaua Bucharest.  Ironically, it was the arrival of two other Brits (Gary Lineker & Mark Hughes) that effectively ended Archibald’s Barcelona career. No longer an automatic first teamer due to the restrictions on fielding foreigners in the 1980’s, his career at the Camp Nou fizzled out and he was loaned to Blackburn Rovers for the last year of his contract (in 87/88).  Archibald did surprisingly return to Spain in 1989 to sign for Barca’s rivals Espanyol, but his stint was not successful and yielded just 5 goals from 15 games.


10. Paul Ince

Serie A’s fascination with signing the England midfield in the 1990’s continued with Inter Milan’s capture of Paul Ince from Manchester United in 1995. Known primarily as a midfield ‘enforcer’, Ince spent 2 seasons in Italy and was a major cog in the Nerazzurri’s team. Ince played 54 times for Inter, scoring a credible 10 goals.  Inter finished seventh and third in Ince’s two seasons and reached the final of the UEFA Cup in 1997 where they lost out to Schalke.

So there you have it.  Is Neil’s list the stuff of genius or totally foolhardy? Comment below or tweet us at @90minutecynic.

Tell Neil what you think of his choices by tweeting @NeilMace



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'Contentious 10 – The Best British Players Abroad' have 1 comment

  1. August 21, 2014 @ 4:26 am Trevor

    Hitchens, Kiplin, Francis, Souness perhaps? Certainly Hitchens & Kiplin above Ince & Archibald at any rate.


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