For some time the status quo was that English players would see out the entirety of their careers on home soil, never daring take the plunge abroad.
Something just never appealed to our players. Were it the culture shock or different tactics, who knows – but they never took that plunge abroad.
But, more recently, that consensus has changed. Jadon Sancho may be represented as the pioneer in the press, but the likes of Leeds’ Jack Harrison, Tottenham’s Eric Dier and many others all started their professional careers abroad.
Studying French and German at University, I’ve always been fascinated by the players that take the leap to play abroad . It’s always a laugh listening to their interviews in their new language! But giggles aside, many now see the opportunity of regular first team football abroad, something becoming ever scarcer back home.
Let’s have a look at five of the current many young English stars pursuing their football overseas.
Jonathan Panzo – France
Former Chelsea youngster Jonathan Panzo is first. The Lewisham-born 19-year-old currently plying his trade with Dijon FCO in the French top flight.
After deciding his future didn’t lie at Stamford Bridge, Panzo joined French giants AS Monaco at 17. Impressing in the UEFA Youth League during his opening season abroad, the centre-back earned himself a handful of first team appearances at the start of the 19/20 campaign. He would, however, spend the vast majority of it on loan with Cercle Brugge.
Sold to Dijon in the summer for an estimated £3m fee, the defender appears to have finally found himself a more permanent home. Johnson has started each but one of les hiboux first opening six Ligue 1 games.
Darius Johnson – Netherlands
Despite failing to ever get himself into a professional academy, 20-year-old Darius Johnson – currently of FC Volendam in the Netherlands – remains on England’s future talent radar after igniting his career on the continent.
Numerous trials with various English clubs never came to fruition for young forward during his teenage years, but after joining YouTube team Rising Ballers the winger worked his way into the non-league system with Kensington and Ealing Borough.
Success with the Combined Counties side after just five games lead Johnson to a trial with none other than Chelsea, but after the imposition of the club’s transfer embargo a deal between both parties became impossible – despite an impressive performance for the Blues in the Premier League 2.
His name well and truly within European scouting circles, the next formal interest then came from abroad in the form of then Dutch second tier side FC Volendam. After a successful trial the winger quickly agreed terms with Het Andere Oranje, making four appearances late on in the campaign and scoring once as the club’s first team narrowly missed out on promotion to the Eredivisie.
Arvin Appiah – Spain
Amsterdam-born, though having represented England at each youth level, 19-year-old Arvin Appiah is now out in Spain with Segunda División side Almeria after an £8m transfer from Championship side Nottingham Forest last year.
The winger had made just six league outings for the Reds – the majority of which off of the bench – but impressed enough at youth level to warrant La Unión forking out such an extortionate fee for him as an 18-year-old.
The teenager would go on to make 21 appearances in his first campaign abroad, finding the net once, as José María Gutiérrez’ side narrowly missed out in the Promoción Play-Offs – though this wasn’t enough to keep the former Real Madrid man in his position, the 387-time Los Blancos appearance maker swiftly replaced after conclusion of the extended season.
Still in the recovery phase of an injury picked up over the summer period, the former Forest man is yet to make an appearance this campaign – but he will be looking to build on last season’s work as Almeria push for promotion back to La Liga.
Reece Oxford – Germany
West Ham graduate Reece Oxford is next, the 21-year-old currently plying his trade down in Bavaria with FC Augsburg.
Bursting onto the scene for the Hammers at 16 in an early Europa League fixture before then holding his position for the opening day of the season’s trip to Arsenal, Oxford quickly became regarded as one of England’s brightest footballing prospects.
But the graduate failed to keep up with that momentum and, following unsuccessful loan spells at Reading and Borussia Mönchengladbach, was deemed surplus to requirements at the London Stadium before being sold to Augsburg.
Since arriving full-time in Bavaria Oxford has struggled to make a real impact, largely limited to appearances off of the bench late on to slow the game down in a holding midfield role. He was, however, preferred to Kevin Danso, the MK Dons academy graduate having been sent on loan to Southampton and Fortuna Düsseldorf to make space for the former Hammers man.
But whilst perhaps having failed to live up to his early hype, the defensive midfielder plays a position which requires an extortionate amount of maturity and discipline – something that very few will have achieved by age 21. Given a few more years to develop both physically and mentally, we may well see Reece back in the England frame.
Luis Binks – Canada
Gillingham-born Luis Binks started out his career with Tottenham Hotspur, progressing through the youth ranks at Enfield, but upped sticks for the MLS in February with Canadian side Montreal Impact.
The 18-year-old immediately became a vital cog of Thierry Henry’s side, playing the full 90 on all but one occasion – the central defender picking up a late red card in a 4-1 defeat to manager Henry’s former side New York Red Bulls.
Over the summer Binks’ registration was transferred over to sister club Bologna FC – the Serie A side also owned by Canadian-Italian billionaire Joey Saputo – but was immediately loaned back to Impact for the remainder of the MLS campaign.
Though the 6″2 defender has represented England at every youth level so far, he has also been capped thrice by Scotland’s youth sides – eligible through his Grandfather from north of the border. Binks will certainly be one to watch for the future for the Three Lions who may have to tussle for his international allegiance.
But what other English stars do you know currently playing abroad? Has your team had any youth prospects move overseas in the past few years?