Sunday 21st October 2018    

Toby Yates – UCFB Sports Business & Broadcasting student – 2018

The last few years has seen an increase in English youth talents preferring the prospect of first team football in a European country to signing new contracts with their current clubs, where opportunities for first team minutes are harder to come by.

It’s well known that English players rarely sign for clubs abroad, in comparison with international players coming to the English football leagues. Some of course have: Gary Lineker (Barcelona) and Steve McManaman (Real Madrid) were the first two to sign for a Spanish side, with David Beckham and Michael Owen both moving to Los Blancos too; whereas Owen Hargreaves had a stint at FC Bayern München.

More recently, Jadon Sancho, 18, has captivated fans of the German Bundesliga and excited English football followers all over the country. Sancho was a key player in the England U-17 squad which historically won the the U-17 World Cup, beating Spain in the final. He was signed by Borussia Dortmund from Manchester City in August 2017 and was immediately used in the first team – albeit sporadically.

Since the beginning of this season, however, Sancho has scored two and assisted six in 304 minutes of league football, as well as starting and assisting in the Champions League. To crown his blistering start to the campaign, Gareth Southgate called up Jadon to the senior England team for the UEFA Nations League games against Croatia and Spain, where he featured from the bench against the Croats.

Meanwhile, Sancho’s friend from the English youth set up, Reiss Nelson, is the latest to join the Bundesliga. Nelson, 18, signed on loan to Hoffenheim from Arsenal in August 2018 and has already bagged four goals in as many games for the German outfit, in addition to a Champions League appearance. Like Sancho, Nelson’s performances haven’t gone unnoticed; he was called up to the English U21’s for the first time, scoring a magnificent free-kick after coming on as a substitute against Andorra.

When asked last year about young English players signing abroad, the England U21 manager, Aidy Boothroyd, said: ” We may see a little more of that because our players are as good as anybody in the world.”

Success stories such as Sancho’s and Nelson’s are proof that raw talents like these need first team minutes to develop and flourish, and then maybe these aspiring talents can prove you really can win something with kids.