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Ranking the 10 best English players playing abroad

More English footballers than ever appear to be heading abroad, with a number of big names having departed the comforts of the Premier League for challenges on the continent.

Last summer alone saw five senior England internationals sign for teams on the continent, including some of the most high-profile transfers of the summer.

Following the recent success of English talents in major European leagues, we’ve attempted to rank the 10 best English footballers currently playing abroad.

Ranking the 10 best English players playing abroad:

10. Angel Gomes – Lille

Angel Gomes became the youngest player to debut for Manchester United in 64 years when he made his first appearance for the club, coming on as a late substitute for Wayne Rooney in 2017. Aged just 16, he became the first player born this century to feature in the Premier League, but made just just nine further appearances for the Red Devils.

Gomes signed for Lille on a free transfer in 2020 and has since made 83 appearances in all competitions. The midfielder broke into the team after a successful loan spell at Boavista in 2020/21 and has been a regular across the last three campaigns.

The 23-year-old formed part of the England teams that won the u-17 World Cup in 2017, and the u-21 European Championship last summer.

9. Chris Smalling – Roma

Chris Smalling is another ex-Manchester United man plying his trade in Europe, having signed for Roma on an initial loan deal in 2019. The centre-back won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and EFL Cup with the Red Devils, but moved to Rome after falling out of favour at Old Trafford.

Smalling has been a popular figure at the Stadio Olimpico and was named in the Europa Conference League Team of the Season in 2021/22, as Roma won a first major European trophy under Jose Mourinho. The defender produced a man-of-the-match performance in the final as the Italians beat Feyenoord 1-0 in Tirana.

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8. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Besiktas

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s six seasons at Liverpool saw bright moments punctuated by fitness issues, with the Reds opting against extending his contract last summer. The 30-year-old decided on a new challenge after signing for Besiktas, joining ex-Premier League alumni Eric Bailey, Daniel Amartey and Arthur Masuaku at the 21-time Turkish champions.

The 35-cap England international has made a bright start in Istanbul, with two goals and an assist from six league starts.

7. Marcus Edwards – Sporting Lisbon

A rarity on this list, Marcus Edwards has never made a Premier League appearance.

A graduate of the youth system at Spurs, Edwards departed for Portuguese side Vitória S.C. in search of regular first-team football. A positive first season earned Edwards a move to Sporting Lisbon, where he has since impressed for the capital club with 18 goals and 20 assists in 80 appearances.

No English player has ever scored more goals in Portugal’s Primeira Liga than Edwards, who has been linked with a return to English football.

6. Ruben Loftus-Cheek – AC Milan

Ruben Loftus-Cheek brought more than two decades with Chelsea to a close last summer, signing for AC Milan in search of a new challenge. The midfielder had failed to fulfil his early potential in west London, but has impressed during his opening months in Serie A.

Loftus-Cheek was outstanding as Milan beat Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last week, exhibiting the drive and carry which makes him so difficult to stop at his best. The change in scenery might just be what the 27-year-old needed, as he aims for an England recall.

5. Jordan Henderson – Al-Ettifaq

Jordan Henderson’s controversial transfer to Al-Ettifaq has placed the former Liverpool captain firmly in an unwanted spotlight, with the 33-year-old criticised for his decision to move to Saudi Arabia.

Henderson had been a long-term ally of the LGBT+ community, but has severed those ties with his move to the Middle East and to a country where same sex relationships are illegal.

For Liverpool, the £12m sale of the midfielder made sense given his influence was on the wane, though Henderson has retained favour with Gareth Southgate and England. For how much longer, given the lack of competitiveness in the Saudi Pro League compared to European divisions, remains to be seen.

4. Tammy Abraham – Roma

Tammy Abraham was an instant hit after signing for Roma in a £34m deal from Chelsea in 2021.

Abraham’s debut campaign saw the forward score 27 goals in all competitions, including nine during the club’s run to Europa Conference League success. The 24-year-old managed just nine goals last season however, before a serious knee injury ruled Abraham out of the opening months of 2023/24.

He will hope to return swiftly as he looks to compete for a place in the England squad for Euro 2024.

3. Fikayo Tomori – AC Milan

Fikayo Tomori is another Chelsea academy graduate who departed west London for Italy in search of opportunity, signing for AC Milan in a £25m deal after an impressive loan spell.

Tomori’s first full season with the Rossoneri saw him named in the Serie A Team of the Year, as Milan were crowned champions for the first time in 11 years with the best defensive record in the division.

His form has seen him recalled to the England squad, where the 25-year-old will hope to earn a regular role in Gareth Southgate’s plans. Tomori has won four senior caps for the Three Lions.

2. Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid

Jude Bellingham might just be the most exciting young talent in world football right now.

Bellingham’s decision to turn down the Premier League in favour of a move to Germany as a teenager has paid dividends, with three seasons at Borussia Dortmund having seen the midfielder evolve into a brilliant box-to-box presence.

The 20-year-old was named as the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season in 2022/23, before turning down interest from England in favour of signing for Real Madrid. His impact in the Spanish capital has been nothing short of remarkable, with Bellingham the leading scorer in La Liga with 10 goals in 11 games.

He has 13 in all competitions for Real Madrid already this season, just one short of the career-best return scored for Dortmund last season. He was deservedly named as winner of the Kopa Trophy, as the best performing player under the age of 21, at the Ballon d’Or ceremony.

Even at 20, he is the key to England’s hopes at next summer’s European Championship.

1. Harry Kane – Bayern Munich

Harry Kane will captain England at next summer’s European Championship and looks set to arrive at the tournament in career best form.

Kane scored 30 league goals last season for Tottenham, the joint-best return of his Premier League career, before deciding to leave north London in search of silverware. The 30-year-old has been an instant hit at Bayern Munich with a record-breaking start to his career at the club, with Kane having scored 21 goals in just 16 appearances for the German champions in all competitions.

No player has ever scored more goals after 11 games of a Bundesliga season (17), with Kane’s return higher than the total Christopher Nkunku and Niclas Füllkrug posted (16) as the league’s leading scorers last season.

Kane was signed with the intention of spearheading Bayern’s push for the Champions League and on current form he looks capable of firing the Bavarians to European success. The current leader in the race for the European Golden Boot, he could become just the second Englishman to win the award.

Read – Five fixtures to watch during November’s international break

Read more – Football Manager 2024: The game’s best wonderkids!


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