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Players who moved abroad before Beckham

Monday 27th February 2017
A trend started, in the public eye, by David Beckham; heading to a lesser known or covered league for the twilight of a player's career is commonplace these days. However, there were many who moved on to pastures new for quieter lives long before Beckham lit the MLS touchpaper.

Gary Lineker



If you told a casual football fan than Arsene Wenger nearly managed Gary Lineker and that the match of the day host speaks fluent Japanese; they'd probably check your pint for narcotic drugs to be on the safe side. But, Wenger and Lineker were once big names in the Japanese football league.

Lineker joined Grampus on a two-year deal in 1992 and made 23 competitive appearances for the club scoring nine goals. Bear in mind that Lineker turned down an offer from Blackburn Rovers in favour of the move to Japan and retired in September 1994 with future Grampus manager Arsene Wenger in the stands overseeing his potential new employers.

Two years for Wenger in Japan netted him Silverware, huge acclaim, plenty of cash and the Arsenal job – history was made at Nagoya Grampus without most of the footballing world ever knowing.

Trevor Francis

England's first £1 million player, Francis is perhaps best remembered as a lethal striker for Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest but he actually spent a considerable amount of time abroad that some might have forgotten about.

His time at Sampdoria is widely believed to be some of the best football Francis ever played, despite not scoring as often as he may have liked, and he featured alongside fellow Brit Graeme Souness who was entering the twilight of his career.

However, it isn't Francis' spell in Italy that I'm focusing on here; instead, it's his very short stint in Australia circa 1988.

Beckham is known for having brought the MLS to the attentions of a much wider, world audience and Francis aimed to do the same with fledgeling Australian side Wollongong Wolves making three appearances and scoring twice. He was drawn by financial gain, of course, but Francis, Alan Brazil and Paul Mariner's efforts really kick-started the concept of Australian professional football - bet you didn't know that!

George Best

Besty played for so many clubs in his career that it actually gives me a headache trying to remember them all - one sticks out in my mind more than others, of course, but there are some very unusual entries on the list I can assure you.

The pride of Belfast headed for America, long before Beckham, in 1976 (at first) and signed for Los Angeles Aztecs aged 30. From there, Best moved Fulham before heading back to LA and then to Fort Lauderdale before nipping back over to the UK for a year at Hibernian - but this isn't the end by a long way.

Best then moved to San Jose Earthquakes aged 34 and this is where things start to get a bit strange.

Two games for Hong Kong based Sea Bee and a single outing for Hong Kong Rangers followed before Best was touted by Bournemouth for a short stint - he claimed to have retired after just five games for the Cherries.

Of course, Best didn't retire and made for Australia and Brisbane Lions aged 37 - four appearances later and a swansong of sorts at Nuneaton Borough saw Best finally call it a day in 1984 after a game for Northern Irish side Tobermore United.

So George Best did America before Beckham, China/Hong Kong before Lineker and Australia before Trevor Francis, Emile Heskey and Alessandro Del Piero. Who knew the Belfast Boy was the ultimate footballing hipster?

 
Kristian Webb
A Manchester United fan who actually knows where Manchester is; I'm the chief writer for AccumulatorTips, ForzaSwansea and a contributor to WhatCulture's video game section. I'm a professional proofreader, content author and SEO Expert but that doesn't mean there won't be the odd grammatical error!

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