For years a criticism of English players has been that they do not test themselves abroad. It is one reason why the English national team has struggled over the years. No one go’s abroad and learns a different culture of how to play the game.
In recent years, we have seen very few players move to Italy, France, Spain or Germany.
Micah Richards and Ashley Cole both had stays in Italy. One rebuilding his career, one coming to the end. Whilst Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard were star names in the MLS. Jermaine Defoe also went to the American retirement, but soon realised there wss plenty left in his tank and returned to the Premier League.
It is around about a decade since Real Madrid took David Beckham, Steve McManaman and Michael Owen to La Liga. Since then, not so much of substance.
I will always remember the France 1998 World Cup winning side, and how the majority of their key players played outside the French league. Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Marcel Desailly were all in Serie A during its glory years, Bixente Lizarazu played for Bayern Munich, Patrick Vieira for Arsenal, Christian Karembeu for Real Madrid. The lessons they all absorbed and brought back to Les Bleus’ party were regarded as vital.
So it is interesting to see 3 young Arsenal players leave for the continent this summer. Not on loan deals like 156 Chelsea players, but on permanent deals.
Highly rated youngster Chris Willock decided against signing a new deal at Arsenal this summer, and instead took his speed and trickery to Portuguese champions Benfica on a five-year deal.
At just 19, it could be a brilliant move for him. The Portuguese league promotes attacking, free flowing football. A player like Willock will thrive in the league. He will have a chance to show his skills at a high level, rather than sit in Arsenal’s reserves, or be booted around in the Championship.
Kaylen Hinds was the second Arsenal player out the door.
The Islington local, also just 18, joined German outfit VfL Wolfsburg on a three-year deal for reportedly ~£2,000,000.
Wolfsburg’s manager is former Academy Manager Andries Jonker, who is ably assisting by Freddie Ljungberg. They both must have seen something in Hinds whilst at Arsenal to make the youngster one of their first signings.
The final, and most recent, Arsenal youngster to make the move abroad is Dan Crowley.
When Crowley joined Arsenal at 16, he was labelled the next Jack Wilshere. Crowley to Wilshere is what Fran Merida was to Cesc Fabregas.
Crowley was loaned out 3 times whilst at Arsenal, the last being to Dutch side Go Ahead Eagles.
He must have impressed in his 6 month spell because it has secured him a 3 year contract with Willem II.
It takes a lot, as a teenager, to uproot yourself from your home country and work elsewhere. Especially in something as pressurised and cut throat at football. Some will say they get paid enough so the money should compensate but it does not compensate for the mental strain that any human being might face.
Too all 3, we wish you well and hope that by moving abroad, you open the door for more young Englishmen to make the move. And in turn the England National team improves as move players join up with the squad having learnt the game in a different country.
Good luck to all 3.