Former Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday defender Des Walker celebrates his birthday today, turning 49. The centre-back was capped 59 times by England during his international career and made over 300 club appearances for both Forest and Wednesday.
He also featured for Italian side Sampdoria, helping the Channel 4-fuelled love of Italian football in the 90s. He lasted just one season in Italy before returning with Nottingham Forest, making 30 appearances.
In honour of Walker’s birthday, here are ten more British players to have tried their hand at playing abroad.
The most famous British export of recent seasons, although that title may be under threat should Gareth Bale keep up his form at Real Madrid, David Beckham was one of the few members of the famous class of 92 to be brave enough to actually leave Manchester United.
Aged 28, Beckham left United having won it all in 2003. He then spent four years at Real Madrid before leaving for the USA in 2007. He stayed with LA Galaxy until 2012, with his time in the USA punctuated by loan spells in Milan, before moving once again to finish his career in France with PSG in 2012.
Nicknamed Mighty Mouse during his time in Germany, former Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan spent three years in the Bundesliga with Hamburg. In that time he won one German league title and was part of the Hamburg side that finished runners up to Nottingham Forest in the 1980 European Cup final.
Keegan scored 32 times in 90 appearances in Germany.
3. Graeme Souness
During a career mainly spent at Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Rangers, Souness managed to feature in three other countries beyond the British Isles as a player. He had loan spells in Australia and Canada with West Adelaide and Montreal Olympic respectively, before moving to Sampdoria in 1984. He spent two years in Italy, winning one cup, before returning home with Rangers.
As a manager Souness also travelled, taking charge of Torino, Benfica and – most famously – Galatasaray. During his time in Turkey Souness’ greatest moment came in the 1996 Turkish Cup when, having defeated bitter rivals Fenerbahce, Souness marched into the middle of the pitch before planting a flag on the centre spot of one of the world’s most heated rivalries.
4. Gareth Bale
Bale left British shores in spectacular fashion for Real Madrid in summer 2013, making a World record move from Tottenham.
He popped up with the winner in the Champions League last season, with one of 21 goals scored across La Liga and Europe.
5. David Platt
Like Walker, Platt was one of a number of Englishman to represent Sampdoria during the 90s. Unlike Walker, however, he lasted more than one season in Italy. Prior to a two year spell at Sampdoria from 1993, he also featured for Bari and Juventus, staying a season apiece at both sides. his time in Italy saw him win the UEFA Cup with Juventus in 93 and win the Coppa Italia a year later with Sampdoria.
The league title eluded him though, while his spell in Italy ended badly with an ill-fated six game spell in charge of la Samp that finished in controversy amidst complaints from other clubs that Platt didn’t have the required qualifications.
6. John Charles
Voted the best foreign player to play for Juventus in 1997, former Wales international John Charles played in Turin for five years. A three time winner of the Italian league, he played over 150 times for the Old Lady between 1957 and 1962, before later featuring briefly for Roma.
7. Gary Lineker
Match of the Day host Gary Linkeker spent five years abroad with spells at Barcelona and Grampus Eight bookending his time at Tottenham. In 1986, after winning the World Cup Golden Boot award in 1986, Lineker moved from Everton to Barcelona, where he stayed for three seasons. During that time he scored 52 goals in 108 appearances, although the bulk of those came in his first two years at the club under former England boss Terry Venables, before being shunted to the right wing under Johan Cruyff.
After three years at White Hart Lane with Tottenham, Lineker then moved to Japan in 1993 to play for Grampus Eight.
8. Chris Waddle
To France now for the next inclusion on our list, with Chris Waddle. In 1989 he became the third most expensive footballer of the era when he moved from Tottenham to Marseille for £4.5 million. During his time in France Waddle was a three time title winner and also came close to European glory, with Marseille losing to Red Star Belgrade in the 1991 European Cup Final.
9. Paul Gascoigne
Loved in Italy, Paul Gascoigne spent three years in Serie A with Lazio between 1992 and 95 and became a cult hero for his antics. On the pitch, however, he was inconsistent and scored just six goals in his 43 games before returning to the UK with Rangers.
10. Steve McMananan
The first of the wave of Englishmen – well, relatively – to move to Madrid in the early 2000’s, “El Macca” made the move from Liverpool in 1999 on a free transfer. He was followed by Beckham, Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate, but was the only one of the quartet present when Madrid won the Champions League in 2000 and 2002.
Overall he played 94 times for Madrid in his four year period at the club, before returning to England with Manchester City.