Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and the best seasons by English players abroad - ranked


Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and the best seasons by English players abroad - ranked


Two of the Three Lions' best have been starring on the continent in 2023-24, but how do they match up to some of their compatriots from years gone by?

Jude Bellingham's campaign has been remarkable. No longer just a midfielder, the 20-year-old has instead developed into a world-class false nine, equal parts deadly goal-scorer and hard-working presser. At this stage, it would be little surprise to see him win the Ballon d'Or.

One of his main challengers for the Golden Ball, however, is his compatriot Harry Kane, who is nearing Robert Lewandowski's Bundesliga single-season scoring record during his debut campaign at Bayern Munich. That won't be enough to bring the German title back to Bavaria, but Kane could still win this season's Champions League, though Bellingham and Real Madrid stand in his way at the semi-final stage.

When it comes to broadening their horizons and thriving abroad, Bellingham and Kane are in pretty rare company. English players, throughout history, tend to stay in their home country for the majority of their careers, while those who do travel seldom experience success.

Still, a select few have made their mark away from home, as GOAL takes a look at the best seasons from Englishmen abroad down the years...

9. David Beckham (Real Madrid, 2006-07)

David Beckham's time at Real Madrid proved complex, to say the least. The England midfielder's tenure was marred by negative headlines and an inability to settle into a star-studded side at Santiago Bernabeu.

But something clicked in early 2007. After being exiled by manager Fabio Capello in January, Beckham worked his way back into the team and was instrumental as Los Blancos made a title run in La Liga - pipping Barcelona to the crown.

That would prove to be Beckham's final campaign with Madrid, as he left to join LA Galaxy in the summer of 2007.

8. Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid, 2020-21)

Kieran Trippier's move from Tottenham to Atletico Madrid in 2019 was something of a shock. The right-back had just penned a new deal to stay in north London, and appeared set to finish his career in Mauricio Pochettino's side.

But when Diego Simeone offered Trippier the chance to become Los Rojiblancos' first English player in 95 years, he jumped at the opportunity. Things didn't go to plan immediately, but Trippier eventually settled, and in the second half of the 2020-21 campaign, played a key role as Atleti fought off Barcelona and Real Madrid to clinch an unlikely La Liga title.

7. Steve McManaman (Real Madrid, 2000-01)

Steve McManaman, if you take him at his word these days, never really wanted to leave Liverpool. But when talks over a new deal at Anfield fell apart, Real Madrid came calling, and the Scouser became one of the highest-profile free transfers in football at that point.

The winger impressed in his first season at the Bernabeu, but financial difficulties in the summer 2000 led to McManaman almost being sold. Still, he pushed back against the numerous bids that Los Blancos accepted for him, and fought for his place in the side.

By September 2000, he was a regular, and Vincente del Bosque had no choice but to keep him in the team. A right-sided player by trade, McMananman switched to an unfamiliar left-wing position and worked wonderfully with Roberto Carlos, the duo forming a deadly attacking tandem as Los Blancos won their 28th La Liga crown.

6. Tammy Abraham (Roma, 2021-22)

Tammy Abraham was an unfortunate casualty of Romelu Lukaku's ultimately unsuccessful move to Chelsea in the summer of 2021, and the England forward could have felt hard done by for being pushed out the door by his boyhood club, such were the quality of his performances over the previous two years.

But after joining Roma for €41 million (£35.1m/$44.3m), Abraham showed exactly what he could offer. He scored 17 goals in Serie A, and 27 in all competitions, in the 2021-22 campaign, as Jose Mourinho's side won the Europa Conference League. It was a record-breaking campaign for the centre-forward, who became the first English player in over 30 years to score more than 10 Serie A goals in a season.

5. Gary Lineker (Barcelona, 1986-87)

In 1986, Gary Lineker was at the height of his footballing powers. The Everton side he starred in were consistently one of the best in the English top-flight, while he won the Golden Boot for finishing as top scorer at the 1986 World Cup.

He was a man in demand, then, and it was Barcelona - managed by Lineker's compatriot, Terry Venables - who eventually won the race for his signature. Venable handed Lineker a major role, and playing alongside Wales striker Mark Hughes, Lineker scored 21 goals in 41 appearances during his first season in Catalunya. That return didn't bring with it any silverware, but Lineker's hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Real Madrid etched him into Blaugrana folklore.

4. Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund, 2019-20)

There was a time when Jadon Sancho was one of the most exciting youngsters in world football. It's hard to believe, given his fall from grace at Manchester United, that that player once existed.

In the 2019-20 season, Sancho was magnificent. He had broken out the previous year, but after 18 months in Germany, the winger truly settled into a role in the first team. In November 2019, he finished as the runner-up in the Golden Boy award, and backed up that narrow miss with performances on the pitch.

The ex-Manchester City academy star scored 20 goals and assisted 20 more across all competitions, and though Bayern Munich won every single trophy available in Germany that year, Sancho - alongside the emerging Erling Haaland - kept Dortmund competitive.

3. Chris Waddle (Marseille, 1990-91)

You could pick any three of Chris Waddle's three seasons at Marseille and they wouldn't look out of place on this list. 'Magic Chris', as he was christened by the French club's faithful, spent a trio of campaigns tearing up Ligue 1, helping OM to three straight top-flight titles. The 1990-91 campaign was his best, as Marseille won the league before falling agonisingly short in the European Cup final, losing on penalties to Red Star Belgrade.

Individual accolades never followed Waddle to the European continent, but his legacy in French football has remained stellar. In 2010, Marseille fans named him the second-best player in club history, behind only Ballon d'Or winner Jean-Pierre Papin.

2. Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund, 2022-23)

It's somehow easy to forget, given how good he is now, that Bellingham wasn't bad in his last season at Dortmund, either. Deployed in a more advanced role than in seasons past, the English midfielder pulled the strings and grabbed the goals as his side made an unexpected run for the Bundesliga title.

Bellingham hit double-digits in goals for the first time in his career, and had it not been for a knee injury that ruled him out for the final few weeks of the campaign, Dortmund might have seen off Bayern Munich's challenge to win a first title since 2011.

The former Birmingham City starlet did finish the campaign on a high, however, as he was crowned the Bundesliga Player of the Season.

1. Kevin Keegan (Hamburg, 1978-79)

Such was Kevin Keegan's success in a Liverpool shirt that it's easy to forget that the forward hit perhaps his peak years playing abroad.

He didn't didn't quite hit expectations in his first season in Germany, however, as his Hamburg side stuttered their way to an underwhelming 10th-placed finish. But in the following campaign, they were electric, and Keegan was at the centre of it all.

He scored 17 goals in the Bundesliga as Hamburg won the league for the first time in 19 years, mostly on the back of Keegan's contributions. At the end of it all, he won his second-successive Ballon d'Or - and deservedly so.

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