In 1960 a Liverpool based promoter named Allan Williams arranged a residency in Hamburg for a little know Rock n’ Roll band called The Beatles, it was here that John, Paul & George honed their craft before playing on into history. 17 years later the same city would welcome another Liverpool import : Kevin Keegan who won successive Ballon d’Or titles and the Bundesliga, soon after other English players were heading to Germany with Keegan’s England strike partner Tony Woodcock proving a big hit with FC Cologne.
Now it seems a new British Invasion is making inroads into Germany’s Bundesliga with the news that young Tottenham winger Keanan Bennetts has signed for Borussia Mönchengladbach, in doing so he became the sixth young Englishman to join a Bundesliga team.
The most high-profile of these moves came last summer when Jadon Sancho secured a £7million move from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund. Sancho a dynamic winger is considered the brightest of England’s teenage prospects and after an injury hit start became a hit at the Westfalenstadion and will start next season a Champions League regular.
Meanwhile last summer also saw former Arsenal prodigy Kaylen Hinds join Wolfsburg whilst defender Mandela Egbo once on the books of Crystal Palace has broken into the first team at Mönchengladbach having moved to their academy in 2015. Then there were successful loan moves for Everton’s Under 20s World Cup winner Ademola Lookman and West Ham defender Reece Oxford with Red Bull Leipzig and Monchengladbach respectively.
For the players the attraction is obvious, Germany offers the combination of a pathway to first team football in a high quality division. At present the Bundesliga is ranked the 4th best league in Europe (according to UEFA’s co-efficent) marginally behind the Premier League & Serie A but a country mile ahead of Ligue 1. Compare that to the Eredivisie- the home of Chelsea’s puppy farm of Vitesse Arnhem which ranks 16th whilst those Liverpool prodigies likely to be loaned to Steven Gerrard’s Rangers will be playing in the 26th ranked SPL.
And why are the Bundesliga clubs suddenly keen to take English players? They’ve noted the progress of England’s youth teams in major youth tournaments and realised there’s talent to be had if you can mould a player from junior to senior level.
It’s a trend that reflects poorly on the Premier League, take Lookman as a case in point: Sam Allardyce despatched him to Germany thinking he wasn’t ready for the first team and then splashed out £20million on a declining Theo Walcott. Lookman has gone on to score 5 goals notch 4 assists in just 11 games helping Leipzig to 6th place in Germany whilst Walcott managed 3 goals and 3 assists in 14 games as Everton finished 8th in England and is of course 9 years Lookman’s senior.
One of the first items on the agenda of the as yet unnamed new Everton manager will be to decide how he can get Lookman into the team knowing if he can’t offer a pathway Leipzig have registered an interest in a permanent switch. The next West Ham manager will have a similar dilemma over Oxford with Monchengladbach ready to pounce, Oxford having helped them to 9th in the Bundesliga compared to the Hammers 13th in the Premier League.
The pattern looks set to continue with Mongengladbach interested in Under 17 World Cup Golden Boot Rhian Brewster much to Liverpool’s annoyance whilst his World Cup teammate Callum Hudson-Odoi is attracting interest from across the continent as he sits on the fringes of Chelsea’s first team.
The message to the Premier League clubs is becoming clear- if you can’t offer a pathway to the first team others will. Many this season have sniggered at Chelsea’s inpatience with young players leading to the best player for each of their 3 principle rivals (Mo Salah, Kevin De Bruyne & Romelu Lukaku) all being once of Stamford Bridge and now out-performing their old club, the Premier League at large is in danger of falling into the same trap.