Football is more global than ever and clubs are constantly out on the hunt for talent all over the world. Biggest clubs not only have the money to buy best players regardless of origin, many clubs have youth academies that reach out to talents pretty much all over the world.

Now in the midst of Gareth Bale's potential (and according to some, imminent) transfer to a larger club (Real Madrid has stated interest in multiple occasions), I came to realise that few British stars play outside England. In comparison to South American and French, Dutch, German etc players that are all over the football scene, how come British players don't get headhunted nearly as often as players of other nationalities? Is it used to be like this in the past (70s-80s)?emphasized text

I did some mental exercise to try and recall British stars going to major clubs; and I can only recall Beckham (from Man Utd to Real Madrid), McManaman (from Liverpool to Real Madrid) and Woodgate (from Newcastle Utd to... well you know it, Real Madrid). Am I missing some notable examples?

I would also argue that none of these players really excelled in Spain. Looking at the stats on Wikipedia:

  • Steve McManaman: 14 goals, 33 assists in 157 games (4 seasons in the club)
  • Jonathan Woodgate: 1 goal in 14 games (2 seasons in the club)
  • David Beckham: 20 goals in 155 games (4 seasons) While it's not too shabby as a performance for a winger, compared to his goal/app average in United (0.234) his performance in Real is significantly inferior (0.112)

The only answer I can imagine that makes sense is that Premier League has a very different culture to it and that British players either aren't versatile enough to do the job in another league, or that they do not want to adapt. But even that's a weak answer. So what reasons could be responsible for this situation?