The Premier League is one of the most competitive and exciting leagues in the world and thus attracts a host of talented players from all over the world. This does unfortunately limit the amount of first team football that is afforded to homegrown English players. Germany, however, seems to be a place of redemption for young English players seeking more consistent first-team football.
English players were reportedly only involved in 34% of all minutes played in the top flight last season, according to a recent study. This has forced players to look elsewhere for more regular football, specifically to Germany. The Bundesliga has appealed to many young players especially after the success of Borussia Dortmund midfielder, Jadon Sancho.
Sancho joined the German giants for an estimated £8 million from Manchester City in 2017. He ended the 2017/18 campaign with one goal and four assists in 12 appearances as well as being named the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month for January 2018.
Currently Sancho continues to impress for the current log leaders as he has nine goals and 14 assists in 35 games in all competitions for the German outfit. The English international impressed throughout the month of October scoring 4 goals and assisting 1 to win the coveted Bundesliga player of the month award.
Reiss Nelson is following in the steps of Sancho after securing a loan move away from Arsenal to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. The forward has not yet reached the heights of his compatriot but one assist and three goals in October earned him the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month award. Over 22 games Nelson has slowly started to find his form and has scored 6 goals for the German club that currently sit in 8th position on the table.
There is no way to know if these players might have been afforded the same game time at their English clubs, with their recent success as well as consistent first team football it is unlikely they are having any second thoughts.
Everton player, Ademola Lookman, is the inverse of this situation; having had a successful stint at RB Leipzig in the 2017/18 campaign which saw him score five goals, assist four and average a goal every 115 minutes in 11 starts for the club. However, after returning to Everton this season he has been unable to recreate that form with only two assists in 14 starts for the Toffees so far.
It is not all sunshine and rainbows in the German league for every English player looking for minutes on the field. West Ham player, Reece Oxford is currently having a torrid time in Germany having joined FC Augsburg on loan in January. The defender has started four consecutive games but has suffered 3 defeats and kept no clean sheets. To add insult to injury Oxford was shown red in his most recent game which saw his team defeated 5-1 to SC Freigurg. Clearly, Germany may not be some mythical paradise for all young English players.
Despite this, the success of these young British players in Germany has shown that the grass may be greener on the other side for players such as Chelsea winger, Callum Hudson-Odoi. The youth star attempted to force a move away from the Bridge to Bayern Munich in the transfer window however Chelsea retained their player at least until the summer, much to their fans delight.
It is no surprise that Hudson-Odoi would want a move away from the Blues after only playing a total of 74 minutes in the Premier league this season. This pails in comparison to his English teammates, Sancho and Nelson who have played a total of 1 534 and 547 minutes in the Bundesliga respectively.
So the real dilemma becomes: is there space at these big clubs to support academy integration or do these young players have a better shot looking for first-team football abroad?
A club’s policy on youth talent is an important factor to consider when discussing the best possible direction to take for both the player and the club. In contrast to Chelsea, Manchester United is renowned for utilising and growing youth talent. Marcus Rashford is an example of the positive youth ethos at United, having broken out the reigns of the academy in 2015. The forward has had 33 appearances for United this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting eight. The 21-year-old has totalled 1 613 minutes in the Premier League alone this season.
Ultimately, the decision to keep, sell or loan out a young player is based on faith. It is always a danger to ship a young player off without including a buy back clause, a decision which has often come back to hurt the pockets of these parent clubs. Manchester United learnt the hard way with Paul Pogba when they splashed a then-world-record breaking transfer fee of £89.3 million to bring him back to the club. Manchester City will likely end up in the same boat if they wish to re-secure the services of Sancho with his estimated value already at £70m.