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Top Tenner: Englishmen abroad
October 11, 2013 8:10:41 AM PDT
By Nick Miller



As our week-long special on the future of football in England comes to an end, we look at the 10 greatest players to leave these shores for pastures new.

10. Owen Hargreaves

During the (frankly quite tedious) debate over Adnan Januzaj's Englishness or otherwise, the name of Hargreaves has sprung up more than once. Is it cheating to include him on this list? Sure, he played for England, but it does seem a bit unfair for him to feature on a list of Englishmen who went abroad, since he first lived in the country he represented after a 17 million pound transfer to Manchester United. Still, it would be more unfair not to include a man with 42 England caps and a couple of Champions League winners' medals.

9. Gary Lineker

An Englishman managing Barcelona who then signs as many Brits as he's allowed, feels a little like a tourist in Benidorm having sausage, egg and chips washed down with eight pints of John Smith's every evening. Still, in Lineker and Mark Hughes, Terry Venables at least bought some good-quality sausages (if you will). Despite being deployed on the right wing in the latter days of his time in Catalunya, Lineker scored 42 goals in 103 games, including a hat trick against Real Madrid, which did him no harm at all with the Barca fans.

8. Gerry Hitchens

As is often the case in football, when one thing succeeds, everyone tries to copy it. Thus, after John Charles did so well at Juventus, Italian clubs decided Britain was the place to pick up top-class talent. Consequently, in the summer of 1961, Denis Law, Joe Baker, Jimmy Greaves and Hitchens were recruited by assorted Serie A sides. Hitchens, signed from Aston Villa for a then-healthy fee of 85,000 pounds, was the only one to stick it out for more than a season, spending eight years playing for Inter, Torino, Atalanta and Cagliari -- although his time abroad basically ended his international career, with Alf Ramsey unwilling to pick those playing outside England. "His name is near the top of the list of the British exports, probably higher than Law," his biographer, Simon Goodyear, said this year. "Maybe only John Charles stands above him."

 

7. Glenn Hoddle

What does a languid genius do when he is unappreciated and derided as a luxury player in his own country? Go to another country, of course. Hoddle left Spurs in 1987 to sign for Arsene Wenger's AS Monaco, where he immediately won Ligue 1, and perhaps would have done more if a knee injury hadn't curtailed his career. "He is the most skilful player I have ever worked with," Wenger later said. "I couldn't understand why he hadn't been appreciated in England. Perhaps he was a star in the wrong period, years ahead of his time." Quite so Arsene, quite so.

6. David Beckham

"At first, Beckham played football and ran. Then, he ran and played football. After that, he just ran," said a Marca editorial about Beckham's first season at Madrid. Signed by Florentino Perez to sell shirts, Beckham largely justified his place in the first Galactico side at Real, fitting in with the other gazillionaires rather nicely, and doing things such as this, which frankly justified his entire existence in Spain. "Beckham is someone who comes 45 minutes early to training and leaves a half an hour after everyone has left," said Zinedine Zidane of his former teammate this year. "He is truly a great professional."

5. Kevin Keegan

A man who, shall we say, tended to march to the beat of his own drum, Keegan left European champions Liverpool to join Hamburg in 1977, becoming the highest-paid player in Germany in the process. Keegan actually struggled in his early days, but grew into his new surroundings superbly to win the Ballon d'Or in 1978 and 1979, the second player to retain the award -- Johan Cruyff was the first. "Mighty Mouse" also led Hamburg to their first-ever Bundesliga title, and lost in the 1980 European Cup final to Nottingham Forest, before surprisingly returning to England to join Southampton.

 

4. Steve McManaman

Of course, the funny thing about El Macca is the Spaniards saw him as a workhorse, while we, back in Blighty, thought of him as an untamed talent, someone who might fit with our run/hoof/tackle mentality, if only he blooming well applied himself a bit more. McManaman actually nearly signed for Barcelona in 1997, flying to Catalunya after Liverpool accepted a 12.5 million pound bid. Alas, nobody thought to tell McManaman that Barca had elected to sign Rivaldo instead, so he had to slink back to Merseyside. Two years later, he joined Real Madrid on a Bosman and, after winning two La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues, it probably worked out okay for him. "McManaman kept the whole squad united," Vicente Del Bosque said. High praise indeed in a team featuring Luis Figo, Raul and Zinedine Zidane.

3. Charlie Mitten

In 1950, footballers in England were still burdened by the maximum wage, permitted to earn only 12 pounds a week. In Colombia, clubs were not governed by such rules –- indeed, they appeared to be governed by no rules at all, recruiting the best players money could buy for the Dimayor League. These included the Alfredo di Stefano at Millonarios and Hector Rial at Santa Fe, who also recruited Mitten. For taking the peso, Mitten was dubbed "the Bogota Bandi" back home, but it went pretty well, initially. "I was more or less an instant success," he said. "I must have scored 24 or 25 goals that season. After about six months we were second top, and Millonarios were top, and I started to consider the class I was playing in." Alas, Mitten and his wife became homesick, and he returned to England, turning down an offer from the soon-to-be-all-conquering Real Madrid in the process, a decision he later regretted. "Ah, Mitten, numero uno," Di Stefano said. "If we had him we would never have needed Francisco Gento. Gento was quick, but Mitten was more clever."

2. Chris Waddle

Unfortunately, the Italia '90 penalty, the mullet, Diamond Lights and some very questionable punditry are all things that spring to mind for most about Chris Waddle, before his status as one of the most successful English players to ever brave "abroad." Winning three French League titles with Marseille between 1990-1992, Waddle also came within a penalty shootout (another one) of winning the European Cup in 1991. He was also voted the second-best player in L'OM's history (behind Jean-Pierre Papin), and was apparently nicknamed "Magic Chris" by French fans -– not because of his glorious skills and footwork, but because he watched Paul Daniels videos to combat homesickness. And anyway, everyone knows Diamond Lights wasn't the highlight of his musical career -- this was.

1. Herbert Kilpin

We might as well end at the beginning. While many Englishmen have plied their trade abroad with varying degrees of success, not many can claim they founded one of the most successful clubs in the history of the game. That's what Nottingham-born Kilpin did, moving to Turin in 1891 to work for a textile merchant named Edoardo Bosio, who started what is believed to be the first club in Italy, Internazionale Torino. Kilpin turned out for them, thus becoming the first Englishman to play abroad. That club folded not long after, but Kilpin already had bigger and better ideas, deciding after a drinking session with some buddies (a place from which all diamond ideas are born) in Milan to form his own club -- he called it AC Milan. Kilpin even had his reasons for picking the famous red and black shirts: "We are a team of devils. Our colours are red as fire and black to invoke fear in our opponents!" Milan won the league in their second season and pretty much haven't stopped winning since. But Kilpin died, penniless, in 1916. This may or may not have been linked to his habit of keeping a bottle of whisky behind the goal during games.

Tags: Manchester United, Liverpool, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Marseille, Monaco

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