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Five successful British footballing exports and how they fared when they returned home

Gareth Bale is set for a sensational return to Tottenham with the star set to fly in to London today before completing a season-long loan deal from Real Madrid.

The Welsh international departed the north London side seven years ago in a world-record deal, regarded as the finest footballer in the Premier League after winning the PFA Player of the Year award twice in just three seasons.

Bale has since gone on to become one of British football’s greatest exports after winning two league titles and four Champions League trophies since moving to Real Madrid, an incredible haul of silverware despite his difficulties in recent seasons.


Ahead of Bale’s impending return to the Premier League and English football, we’ve decided to look back at five successful British footballing exports and how they fared upon returning home:

Kevin Keegan

Kevin Keegan was regarded as one of English football’s finest footballers during his time at Liverpool, winning three league titles and the European Cup with the Merseyside club before opting for a new challenge – and huge pay increase – with a move to German side Hamburg.

The Bundesliga outfit had activated the forward’s release clause and were prepared to pay Keegan a staggering wage to take him to Germany, a pay-packet which proved problematic during his initial months at the club with team-mates reportedly unwilling to pass or speak to the best-paid player in the country.

Keegan, however, soon began to win over the German footballing public and led Hamburg to a first league title in nearly two decades, winning back-to-back Ballon d’Or awards for his performances – remaining the only English player to have won the game’s greatest individual honour more than once.

After three seasons the player nicknamed ‘Mighty Mouse’ by the Hamburg fans returned home in surprise circumstances, Southampton improbably announcing the signing of the reigning two-time European Footballer of the Year.

It was a move that shocked football but came as Keegan sought stability for his young family, his debut season seeing the forward help Southampton to sixth – their highest-ever top-flight finish.

He scored 30 goals in all competitions the following year to be named as the PFA Player of the Year as the Saints finished seventh, a poor defensive record hindering a side who boasted the finest player in the division, Keegan becoming increasingly frustrated by his side’s shortcomings as they slipped from first with a late season slump.

After growing disillusioned with Southampton’s progress a 31-year-old Keegan signed for Newcastle, spending two seasons with the club and becoming a huge fans’ favourite before retiring, scoring 48 goals in just 78 appearances.

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Gary Lineker

One of England’s greatest goalscorers, Gary Lineker moved to Barcelona in 1986 after finishing as the leading scorer in that summer’s World Cup, the penalty-box poacher having scored prolifically during spells at Leicester and Everton.

Lineker was signed by Terry Venables who was keen to add British talent to a squad that had finished as runners-up for both La Liga and the European Cup the previous season, the England international signing alongside the capture of Welsh forward Mark Hughes from Manchester United.

Whilst Hughes struggled to make an impression in Catalonia, Lineker became a popular figure and enjoyed a fine goalscoring record, scoring 42 goals in 103 league appearances including a famous hat-trick in an El Clásico encounter against Real Madrid.

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Lineker’s three-season spell in Spain saw him win the Copa del Rey and European Cup Winners’ Cup, before returning to English football with Tottenham.

The forward showed he had lost none of his goalscoring instincts upon his arrival in north London, scoring a hugely impressive 80 goals in all competitions over three seasons and helping the club to FA Cup success in 1991.

The following season saw Lineker named as the FWA Footballer of the Year after a 35-goal season for Spurs, the second time he had won the prestigious honour after also being awarded the accolade with Everton during the 1985/86 campaign.

He finished his career with another venture abroad, spending two seasons with Japan’s Nagoya Grampus Eight.

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Chris Waddle

Chris Waddle’s rise proved meteoric during a decade in which he rose from non-league football to become the third most expensive player in football history, the technical talents of the winger marking him out as a special player during impressive spells at Newcastle and later Tottenham.

Four seasons in north London had seen Waddle sprinkle his stardust – alongside Glenn Hoddle – on the Spurs side and after seeing his teammate depart for France and Monaco, Waddle followed suit with a big-money switch to Marseille.

His move to Ligue 1 proved an unequivocal success, inspiring Marseille to three consecutive league titles and the final of the European Cup in 1991, Waddle voted as the club’s second best player of the past century behind only Jean Pierre Papin.

The star’s showings in the South of France earned him the nickname of ‘Magic Chris’ by the adoring Marseille fans, but he returned to English football with Sheffield Wednesday ahead of the inaugural season of the Premier League in 1992 after the French side ran into financial difficulties.

Waddle helped the Owls to the finals of both domestic cup competitions during that debut season – losing to Arsenal on both occasions – but his dazzling performances saw him acknowledged as the FWA Footballer of the Year, amongst his highlights a sensational free-kick to help defeat local rivals Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-finals.

He spent a further three seasons with the club as his career began to wind down before short stints with Bradford and Falkirk, the magic of the wing wizard less frequent in the twilight of his career.

Chris Waddle: The easy going showstopper with continental class

David Platt

The goalscoring instincts of midfielder David Platt were honed in the lower leagues with Crewe Alexandra before bursting onto the scene at Aston Villa, firing the club to promotion before being named as the PFA Player of the Year after narrowly missing out on the league title two years later.

By now Platt was established as an elite goalscoring midfielder and a full England international, scoring 19 league goals in successive campaigns and starring at the 1990 World Cup – scoring an iconic late winner against Belgium in the quarter-finals.

Foreign sides had taken notice of his talents and he moved to Italy with Bari, where despite an impressive individual season in which he was given the captain’s armband, he failed to prevent the club’s relegation from a Serie A packed with the world’s leading talents.

Platt remained in Italy, however, and ignored overtures from Sampdoria to sign for Juventus, but he struggled to make an impact in Turin despite ending the season with UEFA Cup success.

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After just a single season with Juventus, he finally made the move to a Sampdoria side which had long admired his talents and starred at the heart of a midfield that contained the talents of Roberto Mancini and the on-loan Ruud Gullit.

Platt scored 17 goals in 55 appearances for a free-scoring Sampdoria side who secured a third-placed finish and Copa Italia success during his time in Italy, before returning to England to sign for Arsenal in 1995.

The midfielder spent three seasons with the north London outfit and made over a century of appearances in all competitions. Although his powers were clearly on the wane after his return from Italy, he did win a domestic double under Arsene Wenger in 1998 before finishing his career with a brief spell at Nottingham Forest.

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Steve McManaman

Steve McManaman was one of several exciting and local graduates from Liverpool’s academy system during the first decade of the Premier League era, the fleet-footed winger establishing himself as one of the most exciting wide talents in English football throughout the nineties.

McManaman’s rise coincided with a transitional period for the Merseyside club as they struggled to maintain their previous success, his honours including just one FA Cup and one League Cup during eight seasons spent as a first-team regular.

Seeking major silverware and a new challenge, McManaman opted to leave the club on a Bosman in 1999, where he signed for Spanish giants Real Madrid on a free transfer.

The Scouse schemer became one of British football’s most successful exports during a trophy-laden career at the Bernabeu, winning two league titles and the Champions League twice – including scoring a stunning scissor-kick goal in the club’s 2000 final victory over Valencia in Paris.

McManaman embraced the Spanish culture and language during a four-season spell, playing alongside Galactico signings including the likes of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo. His technical proficiency and work-rate made him a hugely popular and important member of an iconic Los Blancos side before he decided to return to the Premier League with Man City in 2003.

Sadly for City fans though McManaman was rarely able to produce the type of displays he had become renowned for during his spells at Anfield and the Bernabeu. After two disappointing seasons in east Manchester that produced 44 Premier League appearances and zero goals, Macca decided to hang up his boots.

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