It seems more young British players are following Jadon Sancho’s lead and chancing their arm abroad. Meanwhile, rumors are beginning to circulate of continental interest in the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. However, British players playing their trade overseas remain relatively few compared to other major footballing nations. Here is a countdown of the 20 most successful Brits Abroad:
20. Paul Gascoigne- Lazio (1992-95)
Inevitably the most colourful British footballer abroad was Gazza. On the back off a stellar World Cup, Gascoigne made his belated Lazio debut in 1992 after recovering from his knee injury from the ’91 FA Cup Final. He endeared himself to Lazio fans by heading the 89th minute equalizer in the Rome derby and scoring the best solo goal of his career against Pescara.
His career in Italy looked to be blossoming in year two before a broken leg in training and the arrival of new coach Zdenek Zemen effectively ended his Roman adventure. Gazza made just 55 league appearances for Lazio but remains a cult favorite among Lazio fans.
19. John Collins- Monaco (1996-1998)
A cultured midfielder, Scottish international Collins was one of the first British players to move on a Bosman free when he left Celtic for AS Monaco. Collins proved a success in France, winning the only league title of his career in 1997 and making it to the Champions League semifinals at the expense of Manchester United in 1998.
The summer of ’98 saw Collins play the World Cup in his adopted homeland and scoring from the spot against favorites Brazil. Later that summer, compatriot Walter Smith signed him for Everton, before Collins finished his career with Fulham.
18. Laurie Cunningham- Real Madrid (1979-84), Sporting Gijón (83-84), Marseille (84-85), Rayo Vallecano (86-87, 88-89)
Cunningham made his name playing on the left wing for the dynamic West Brom team of the late 1970’s. From there, he became only the second black player to play for England and the first British player to sign for Real Madrid. Cunningham scored a brace on debut and enjoyed a sensational first season in La Liga as Real won the domestic double.
His second season at the Bernabeu started well, but then the injury problems began and dogged the rest of his career. Cunningham missed most of the 1980-81 season, but returned for the European Cup Final, only for Real to suffer a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool. He managed just a handful of appearances the next season and his career descended into a series of short-term deals; most notably winning the FA Cup with Wimbledon. He returned to Spain with a two stints at second division Rayo Vallecano. However, tragedy struck in Madrid in 1989 when Cunningham was killed in a car accident at the age of 33.
17. Graeme Souness- Sampdoria (1984-86)
After winning three European Cups and five league titles with Liverpool, Scottish international Souness joined Serie A side Sampdoria at the age of 31. Souness was signed to be the midfield general of a youthful side that included future Italian internationals Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli.
Souness was a hit, as Sampdoria lifted their first ever Coppa Italia in his first season with the club. Souness enjoyed two productive seasons in Italy, helping lay the groundwork for Sampdoria’s greater triumphs to come. He then returned to Scotland with Rangers, where he later embarked on a long spell in club management.
16. Paul Ince- Inter (1995-1997)
After a successive spell at Manchester United, Ince was surprisingly moved in the summer of 1995. He wasn’t an instant hit in Milan, but under the tutelage of Roy Hodgson, adapted to the more tactical Serie A. Inter were in transition, but Ince enjoyed a successful first season in Milan and became a fan favorite driving from midfield in his second year as Inter challenged for the league title. Inter president Massimo Moratti offered him a long-term contract to stay at the San Siro, but with a young family to consider, Ince opted to return to England.
15. Trevor Francis- Sampdoria (1982-86) & Atalanta (1986-87)
After becoming Britain’s first million pound player and winning the European Cup, Francis continued his nomadic career with a move to Sampdoria for £700,000. The elegant forward was a statement signing after a bleak period for the Genoa club and he formed a strong connection with Irish teammate Liam Brady.
The arrival of Graeme Souness in 1984 helped Sampdoria kick on and Francis played a key role in their 1985 Coppa Italia win. Despite injury problems, Francis played over 100 games for Sampdoria and is still highly regarded by the club. He finished his Italian adventure with an unproductive year with Atalanta before reuniting with Souness at Rangers.
14. David Platt- Bari (1991-92), Juventus (92-93) & Sampdoria (93-95)
After an impressive World Cup in Italy, England midfielder Platt drew the attention of Serie A and a year later signed for Bari for £5.5m. Platt hit an impressive 11 goals in an impressive debut season, but it wasn’t enough to stop Bari from being relegated and the Englishman was forced to move.
Juventus eventually trumped Sampdoria in the race of Platt’s signature, but the midfielder was only a squad player in Turin. That saw Sampdoria try again and this time they got their man. Platt enjoyed two successful seasons in Genoa alongside close friend Roberto Mancini, winning the Coppa Italia under future England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson before finally returning to England with Arsenal.
13. Ray Wilkins- AC Milan (1984-87) and PSG (1987)
Wilkins had spent a decade with Chelsea and Manchester United when AC Milan came calling in the summer of 1984. Milan had been through a barren few years and the England international was alongside fellow England international Mark Hateley. They finished fifth in the league and reached the Coppa Italia final, with Wilkins serving as a key player.
In his second season, Wilkins impressed again. However, the arrival of Roberto Donadoni saw him drop down the pecking order in his third and final season at the San Siro. In all, Wilkins made 105 appearances for the Rossoneri before a brief stint with PSG. He eventually returned to Britain as part of Rangers’ English Invasion. When Wilkins sadly passed away two years ago, the San Siro paid a fitting tribute to the beloved player.
12. Steve Archibald- Barcelona (1984-88) & Espanyol (1990)
When Terry Venables took charge of Barcelona in 1984, his first task was to replace wayward superstar Diego Maradona. El Tel got his way and signed Spurs striker Steve Archibald. The Scotsman hit the ground running and was quickly dubbed ‘Archigoles’ by the Camp Nou faithful. In his first season in Spain, he was the club’s top goalscorer in La Liga as Barcelona claimed their first league title in a decade.
In his second season, Barca’s focus was on winning a maiden European Cup and Archibald hit the crucial goal in a tight quarter final win over Juventus. In the final against an ultra-defensive Steaua Bucharest team, Venables substituted Archibald prior to Barca’s infamous penalty capitulation. The arrival of two more British strikers in Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes saw Archibald marginalized due to foreign player restrictions. By 1987, he was loaned to Blackburn Rovers and returned to Scotland with Hibs. He enjoyed a brief but productive return to Catalonia with Espanyol in 1990. The following year, the Barca connection saw him persuade former teammate Victor Munoz to join him at St Mirren.
11. David Beckham- Real Madrid (2003-07), LA Galaxy (2007-2012), AC Milan (2009-2010) & PSG (2013)
When the father/son relationship between Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham broke down in 2003, the world’s most marketable player became a Galactico. He started with Real Madrid by winning the Spanish Super Cup, but despite forming a midfield three with Figo and Zidane, Beckham finished his first season without a major trophy.
His second season saw Beckham lead La Liga in assists, but Madrid were unable to settle on a manger. Two more seasons passed without silverware at the Bernabeu. In the summer of 2006, Fabio Capello took charge and Beckham found himself out of favor with both club and country.
Beckham signed a pre-contract deal with LA Galaxy, but in Madrid, he won over Capello, who restored him to the side in time to play a key role in winning the league title in his last game for Madrid. The move to Los Angeles appeared to signal Beckham’s top class career was drawing to a close, but the surprise appointment of Capello as England manager saw Beckham needing to play in a top five league to keep his England career alive. As a result, a short loan to AC Milan was agreed upon.
Beckham won over a skeptical Milan fan base, but the move angered fans back in Los Angeles. A second spring move Milan was arranged for 2010, but an Achilles injury cut the move short and ended Beckham’s dream of playing in a fourth World Cup.
Beckham recovered in Los Angeles and ended his MLS career in triumph with back-to-back MLS Cup wins. Beckham finished his career by patching things up with Sir Alex and winning a Lique 1 title in a brief stint with PSG. In all, Beckham played 10 years and over 300 games away from his homeland.