Never before have there been so many Brits abroad

Brits Abroad: How 23 British players in Europe’s major leagues fared in 2023-24

There’s been a noticeable increase in British footballers playing abroad in recent years – and some of them did absolutely brilliantly in the 2023-24 season.

With England now established as one of the best sides in world football and Scotland joining them at Euro 2024, teams from the continent have taken notice at the number of technically proficient talents produced on these shores and signed some of them up.

We’ve taken a closer look at the British players that turned out for clubs in Spain, Germany, Italy and France in 2023-24.

Note: we’re going by international rules here, so not including players like Nathan Tella and Ademola Lookman who are eligible to represent England but play for other national teams.

We’ve also only included players that played senior minutes, so not featuring youth teamers or established names like Reece Oxford and Japhet Tanganga who were at European clubs but played zero minutes. 

Kieran Tierney

If you’ve followed Tierney’s career in recent years, you won’t be shocked to see that injuries severely hampered his year away on loan at Real Sociedad.

He made just 14 starts in La Liga and one in the Champions League and struggled to make a great impact, but the way he embraced his new environment was appreciated by the fans.

“Thank you to everyone at Real Sociedad,” Tierney posted on Instagram. “What an amazing and special club. Honored to have been a part of it.

“Despite the injury setbacks, I gave everything every time I stepped on the park and you supported me all the way.”

La Real haven’t taken up their option to sign the 26-year-old permanently and his future appears to be at a crossroads. A return to Celtic this summer wouldn’t shock us.

Jude Bellingham

“It is genuinely hard to think of many men who have had a debut season at Madrid quite like this, a player who has dominated a campaign or had an impact like it,” wrote Sid Lowe in The Guardian after Bellingham scored his second injury-time match-winner against Barcelona.

That’s Real Madrid. The club of the Galacticos. Of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Gareth Bale, Zinedine Zidane and Alfredo Di Stefano.

And the crazy thing is it’s true.

Bellingham notched 19 goals (as many as Robert Lewandowski) and five assists 28 appearances and has just been named the La Liga Player of the Year. It’s odds-on that the Champions League will follow.

The best player in the world might just be English. Pinch us.

READ: 2024 Ballon d’Or power rankings: Vini Jr & Bellingham lead the way

Mason Greenwood

The Manchester United loanee notched eight goals and six assists for Getafe, who named him their Player of the Year.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Onto Ligue 1.

The former Hale Ender continues to be a utility man at Lyon, having slotted in at right-back, left-back, defensive midfield and out on the wing.

It was quite the season for Lyon, who went from relegation-battlers to Europa League qualifiers. Maitland-Niles grew into the campaign, notching three of his four assists in his final seven appearances.

He also scored his first and only Ligue 1 goal with a clutch 115th-minute penalty in a madcap 4-3 victory over Brest last month.

Angel Gomes

Manchester United’s youngest debutant since Duncan Edwards continues producing decent performances in the heart of Lille’s midfield.

He notched eight Ligue 1 assists, largely occupying a deeper position. There’s an argument that he offers the kind of steady profile that England are otherwise lacking.

READ: An outrageously brilliant XI of players left out of England’s Euro 2024 squad

Josh Wilson-Esbrand

The Hackney-born defender spent the first half of the season out on loan at Will Still’s Reims, but he struggled for regular starts and was recalled by Manchester City in February.

He subsequently spent the remainder of the 2023-24 campaign on loan at Cardiff.

Karamako Dembele

A similar story to Wilson-Esbrand, former Celtic winger Dembele made just one 16-minute appearance for Brest in early August before spending the rest of the campaign out on loan at Blackpool.

He’s eligible to represent both England and Scotland and could be one worth keeping an eye out for next season at parent club Brest after enjoying a successful loan spell with the Tangerines in League One.

READ NEXT: 6 of the most cringeworthy moments from Brits abroad from Gerrard to McClaren

TRY A QUIZ: European Football Quiz: How well do you know the 2023-24 season?

Lewis Ferguson

We’re gutted that Ferguson will be sidelined for Scotland’s Euro 2024 adventure, because he had the potential to be a real difference-maker.

The attacking midfielder was a key player for Thiago Motta’s Bologna as they punched above their weight, qualifying for the Champions League.

Unfortunately his season was cut short when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Josh Doig

The left-back moved from Hellas Verona to Sassuolo for a reported €6million fee in January, but he might have wished he stayed put.

His former club ended up 13th, while Sassuolo will be turning out in Serie B next season after ending up 19th.

Doig has not made Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for Euro 2024.

Liam Henderson

The first Scot to play in Serie A in 30 years, Henderson was something of a trailblazer for Ferguson and Doig.

Unfortunately, his career hasn’t quite kicked on as he might’ve hoped. After one five-minute substitute appearance for Empoli, he was sent out on loan to Serie B side Palermo for the remainder of the season.

“Of the teams I’ve played for, Palermo are immediately behind Celtic in terms of greatness. I’m honoured to be here, at such an important club,” he told The Guardian.

“I will do my best – anything to take Palermo back to Serie A. I want to do it for the city and the fans. I hope we have a good year together.”

Palermo finished sixth but lost in their play-off semi-final against Venezia.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

“The Loftus-Cheek I’ve found is more attacking than I thought,” AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli said midway through the campaign.

“He’s fantastic.”

After his career stagnated somewhat during his latter years at Chelsea, Loftus-Cheek appears to have found a new lease of life at the San Siro.

The 28-year-old midfielder scored 10 goals in his debut season with the Rossoneri and appears happy in his new surroundings. He was in such good form around the last international break that there was a strong case for an England recall, but it never came.

READ: Where are they now? AC Milan’s most expensive signing of every season since 2010

Fikayo Tomori

There’s an argument that the centre-back hasn’t quite hit the heights of his 2021-22 Scudetto-winning form for Milan, but he remains a dependable centre-back and his continued absence from England squads is still a head-scratcher.

Recent reports from the Italian press suggest that incoming coach Paulo Fonseca will target a new partner for Tomori and look to build the Milan defence around him. One to watch.

Samuel Iling-Junior

The versatile England Under-21 international only made four Serie A starts for Juventus in 2023-24 but he made a further 20 appearances off the bench and gained invaluable experience.

He’s still only 20 and has been linked with a return to England this summer, with Tottenham said to be interested, but kicking on under new boss Thiago Motta might be the best thing for him as Champions League football returns to Turin.

Djed Spence

After an unsuccessful stint at Leeds was cut short before Christmas, Tottenham sent Spence out on loan to Genoa for the second half of the 2023-24 campaign.

The right-back did rack up more opportunities for the Serie A club, but half of his 16 appearances were off the bench and he failed to score or assist.

“Personally, I like Djed and how he is doing, and how he is training,” said Genoa’s sporting director Marco Ottolini last month.

“Of course, he can do more, and he knows this, but we are in contact with Spurs and will evaluate a deal over the next few months giving us time to understand our both position and Djed’s perspective on potentially staying here.”

Chris Smalling

The veteran defender has enjoyed a late-career resurgence at Roma, but injuries reduced him to just seven starts in all competitions in 2023-24.

Reports from Italy suggest that he might depart the Italian capital this summer as the Giallorossi look to a rebuild under Daniele de Rossi.

Tammy Abraham

Corriere dello Sport report that De Rossi has identified just eight players that he wants to build Roma’s future around. Like Smalling, Abraham is not on that list.

The striker suffered an ACL tear last June and didn’t make his first appearance of this season until April. He scored one goal, against Napoli, since returning but has mostly been eased back in from the bench.

We wouldn’t be shocked to see the 26-year-old return to the Premier League, but his recent injury woes might put off potential suitors.

Keinan Davis

The Aston Villa academy graduate played a bit-part role for Fabio Cannavaro’s Udinese this season, making eight substitute appearances totalling 181 minutes.

Yet in the end, he made a monster impact, scoring his first goal for the club with a late match-winner against Frosinone in the final match of the season, a goal that helped preserve Udinese’s top-flight status.

“I’m so happy,” said Davis. “I was out injured for a long time and I wasn’t able to show the fans what I can do. But then I came back and the more I played, the more I built up my confidence. I’m delighted to have helped the team and our fans.”

A lovely story.

Fraser Hornby

Now to the Bundesliga, and starting with former Scotland youth international and Everton academy graduate Hornby.

The striker left Reims last summer and subsequently joined newly-promoted Darmstadt. He’s yet to open his account for the German club, who finished rock bottom and went straight back down, but he only played 214 minutes and one start.

Hornby signed a contract with Darmstadt that runs until 2027, so you imagine he’ll be turning out in the Bundesliga II next season.

Oliver Burke

It feels a long time ago that Burke was talked up as the ‘Scottish Gareth Bale’, described by Ralf Rangnick as “an outstanding talent with an awful lot of potential”

The journeyman winger’s season started out on the periphery at parent club Werder Bremen – one 31-minute substitute appearance in the Bundesliga– and ended with relegation from the Championship after an inauspicious loan move to Birmingham City.

Harry Kane

The England captain somehow still awaits his first trophy after signing for a Bayern Munich side that had just won 11 Bundesliga titles in a row.

We might actually believe in the curse. Particularly as there’s little more he could conceivably have done; rested during their shock DFB Pokal exit, taken off when Bayern were leading against Real Madrid, while notching 36 goals and eight assists from just 32 appearances in his debut Bundesliga campaign.

At least he’s ended up with a first European Golden Shoe, becoming only the second Englishman to win it after Kevin Phillips in 1999-00.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every winner of the European Golden Shoe since 2000?

Jadon Sancho

Having been ousted by Erik ten Hag at Manchester United, it would probably be overstating it to say that Sancho has looked back to his best – at least, consistently – since the loan return to Dortmund.

But he does appear to be on the right track again, while his man-of-the-match performance in Dortmund’s sensational Champions League first-leg semi-final victory over PSG offered a reminder of what an outrageous talent he is on his day.

He hasn’t done quite enough to have troubled Gareth Southgate’s thoughts, but he could yet end 2023-24 as a European champion. What a turn-up for the books that’d be.

Eric Dier

Needing a fresh start in a different surroundings is something of a recurring theme in this list, and it’s arguably most true of Dier who was evidently not part of the plans for Ange Postecoglou’s new-look Spurs.

The 30-year-old did well to silence his doubters, producing solid performances for the Bavarian giants as they knocked Arsenal out en route to the Champions League semi-finals, where they were minutes away from booking a Klassiker rematch at Wembley.

Bayern have triggered their option to sign the defender permanently with a one-year contract option. We’ll be interested to see how he gets on under Vincent Kompany next season.

Jamie Bynoe-Gittens

There’s great excitement over the future of the 19-year-old, who has followed in the footsteps of the likes of Bellingham and Sancho in developing his skills at Dortmund.

But the winger is yet to nail down his spot for the club and remains something of a fringe player. Don’t expect to see him starting the Champions League final, but he might make it off the bench.