Perhaps even without even intentionally doing so, Jadon Sancho has changed the way young English footballers are thinking.
Having shone at youth level with both Manchester City and England, Sancho was spotted by a Dortmund scout and brought to Germany in a £7m deal in 2017. Upon realising his supreme talent, Dortmund – amongst other Bundesliga clubs, attempted to capitalise on English’s clubs inability to value their prized assets.
Borussia Monchengladbach sporting director, Max Eberl spoke to the New York times and said: “This [England] was not somewhere we were focused on.”
But he said he didn’t take long for them to realise: “There are a lot of top players in England.”
Rather than sending scouts to watch the Premier League or even the Championship, clubs were sending scouts to watch under 23 or under 18 games.
He says: “At the time, English clubs bought players but did not care about their academies.”
Although Sancho is the obvious ‘one that got away’ for the English clubs, there have been more and more players taking that step abroad in search of first team football. Some of these are Sancho’s international teammates at youth level, and others will have just watched on in awe as he has torn the Bundesliga apart.
The Bundesliga prides itself on giving young players plenty of opportunities and nurturing them to become superstars. One league, though, that could rival the Bundesliga’s ability to develop young talent is the Eredivisie – the top division in the Netherlands.
Some of the best players in the world have spent time in the Eredivisie, and PSV Eindhoven have acted as a home for some excellent players throughout the years, including Ronaldo Nazario, Arjen Robben and Gini Wijnaldum.
They now have another potential superstar on their hands, 18-year-old Chukwunonso Tristan Madueke – known as Noni Madueke. Having spent all his youth career at Tottenham he left for Holland in 2018, and cites Sancho, and his lack of a first-team path, as his influence.
Madueke said: “A year after he left, I went from Spurs to PSV.
“The plan that I had in mind then is now working out the way I intended it. In England, it is very difficult as a young talent to get into the first team, especially at the bigger clubs. The squads are very large and there is little room for youngsters. They often stay in reserve teams for a long time or are loaned out.
“There is little flow or chance to break through. That is completely different in the Netherlands.”
Madueke wasn’t thrown straight into the first team though, he worked his way up from the under 17s to the under 19s, and then to Jong PSV who play in the Dutch second tier.
After Bergwijn’s departure in January 2020 to Spurs, Madueke began to see some first team minutes before COVID-19 saw the season postponed.
This season could well be his breakout season though; in five games he has a goal and three assists. He is on the fringes of the starting line-up but is regularly on the bench at least.
At 18, he seems to have made an excellent decision leaving his comfort zone and heading to a country not many Englishman have played before.
During his time in Spurs’ academy, Madueke will have crossed paths with an 19-year old central defender named Luis Binks. Playing in Spurs’ academy isn’t all these two have had in common though, as Binks also left Spurs’ academy in search of first team minutes abroad.
He specifically cited his Spurs’ academy alumni Kyle Walker-Peters and Oliver Skipp in an interview about his move stateside.
He said: “I was told that if I do well I might be able to go on the pre-season tour and if I had done well there then maybe cup games and bench appearances would come my way, but I’ve seen players such as KWP, Skippy and Troy [Parrott] and they hardly play games.”
Binks only turned 19 at the start of the September, and is playing in Canada of all places. Montreal Impact of the MLS is the team Binks left Spurs for, and although on paper it may seem like a strange move – it has played out excellently for the defender.
On August 14, it was announced that Italian top-flight club Bologna had agreed a transfer for Binks. A transfer fee of around £225,000 would see him move to Italy in January 2021, and the move turned out to be a win-win for both Montreal and Binks. The club have more than doubled their investment on him in only 7 months, after he signed back in February, and Binks takes another step up in his football development.
These are only a couple of the young English players who have moved abroad in search of first-team minutes, rather than potentially getting stuck in the youth or loan system. Some of the more notable names that haven’t been mentioned include Yunus Musah of Valencia, Marcus Edwards of Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes and Jude Bellingham, Sancho’s teammate at Dortmund.
English players moving abroad is definitely becoming more trendy both for club and player, and it is something that will certainly continue to happen whilst Premier League clubs seem to rebuff homegrown talent for a big-money transfer. Young and hungry English players will begin to question their path to the first team, and whilst teams abroad are offering them a place in their first team and the new culture, the trend will continue.