Why the number of English youngsters playing abroad could help the national team in the future

Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho: Why the number of English youngsters playing abroad could help the national team in the future

England U19's in action at St George's Park. Photo taken by Rob Sills

At seventeen years of age, most teenagers are still in education, working a part-time job, or beginning an apprenticeship. But not Jude Bellingham.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder has shone for the German side over the last few weeks, with his latest performances in his side’s Champions League defeat to Manchester City attracting plaudits from all over the world.

The pure talent that Bellingham has displayed in recent games has propelled his name into the limelight – even forcing himself in England manager Gareth Southgate’s plans on the international stage. And, with the European Championships set to be played this summer, Bellingham could be included in the squad for that tournament.

Born in the West Midlands town of Stourbridge, one thing that has set Bellingham apart from many of his other young, English counterparts is the fact that he now plays his football abroad. In July 2020, Bellingham left his boyhood club Birmingham City to sign for Dortmund, becoming the latest English prospect to seek opportunities overseas.

Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson has been impressed by the increasing number of English talents moving abroad, beginning a trend that has never been seen before in English players.

“One thing I’ve been really excited by is the number of English players playing abroad. Prior to 1990, there were very few English players who went abroad. There were a few of the star players after Italia 90 that went but these days it’s the kids that are going and, I think that will be very beneficial in the future and really help to develop their games.

“Back in the day, going to play in Germany or Italy felt like going to discover the new world. It was like Christopher Columbus getting in his boat and sailing into the unknown!

“But I think in more recent times, the world has become much smaller as travel has become much easier, people know more about international leagues, club’s scouting networks have become much more international.”

Bellingham followed in the footsteps of former Manchester City winger Jadon Sancho in leaving England for Borussia Dortmund, but there are several other examples of English youth moving to play abroad.

The likes of Ryan Sessegnon (Hoffenheim), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Demarai Gray (Bayer Leverkusen and Jonathan Panzo (Dijon) all graduated from English academies, and now ply their trade in other European leagues.

Wilson believes that this could help the England national team in years to come, as these players gain more first-team experience at the top level at a younger age.

“I think in years to come with players like Bellingham and Jadon Sancho will be very influential. I think the England U21 squad for their Euros had a few players that aren’t particularly well-known in England but are doing well abroad.

“A Bundesliga team wouldn’t have known anything about a 15-year-old in a Championship team’s academy 20 years ago, and now everyone knows everything about everybody!

“The fact that Sancho left a team like Manchester City and went to Dortmund and is much better off will encourage others to do the same and try their luck abroad. That might be at the detriment of a few English clubs, but at an international level it could be very beneficial.”