Brits abroad: Five footballers who made bizarre foreign moves

Tom Ince

With Tom Ince set to leave for Italian club Inter Milan, we look at five British footballers who went abroad.

Tom Ince spectacularly revealed that he is close to joining Inter Milan, despite a host of Premier League sides chasing his signature.

Although he has a family connection with the club as his father Paul represented the Nerazzurri during his playing career, the 22-year-old's decision to snub domestic offers has shocked many on these shores as he looks set to join a mixed cohort of Brits who have tried their luck abroad.

We now look at some of the more bizarre and surprising transfer deals that took British players abroad.

1. Tyrone Mears

Mears caused a major controversy in the summer of 2008 when he left relegated Derby County to join Champions League-playing Marseille. After manager Paul Jewell told Mears to ignore chairman Adam Pearson's instructions to head for the French side on loan, the full-back went to the extreme length of climbing through an open window at the training ground, sneaking past the 49-year-old’s office and collecting his boots before driving to the airport to catch a flight to Marseille.

Jewell subsequently told Mears that he would never play for the club again after disobeying his orders. but that didn't stop the defender from finalising his loan move to the Ligue 1 outfit. All of that effort seemed wasted, however, as Mears went on to make only seven appearances for Marseille before returning to England where he signed for Burnley the following summer.

2. Emile Heskey

When it was announced that Heskey would be signing for Newcastle in 2012, the whole of Tyneside braced itself for the shock signing of the summer. All the Magpies fans could exhale when it was announced that the forward had actually signed for Australian A-League side Newcastle Jets. Heskey could be described as a journeyman after playing for clubs across England, but his move Down Under was a shock to the many who thought that he was set to play out the rest of his career in the lower leagues after being released from Aston Villa.

From laughing stock to marquee signing, Heskey enjoyed his most prolific season in eight years bagging nine goals in 23 games in his debut campaign in Australia. Last season saw Heskey suffer with poor form yet again, with the former Liverpool man only finding the net once in 19 games.

3. Jlloyd Samuel

After a long time in the English top flight with Bolton Wanderers and Villa, Samuel made perhaps the most unusual career change when he joined Iranian side Esteghlal. He suffered a rocky start to his career in the Iranian Pro League and was placed on the transfer list in 2012.

Samuel turned his Esteghlal career around, though, and a good run of form saw him nicknamed 'The Black Diamond' by the club’s fans. He helped Esteghlal lift the league title in 2013, scoring six goals in the 2012-13 season, including three in the AFC Champions League.

4. Rohan Ricketts

Ricketts' list of clubs looks more like an atlas than that of a professional footballer's career path. After showing initial promise in a three-year spell with Tottenham Hotspur, Ricketts began his globetrotting with a transfer to Canadian side Toronto FC. After just one season in Canada, Ricketts returned to Europe and signed for Hungarian minnows Diosgyori VTK. After just one appearance for the club, the midfielder moved to Moldova with FC Dacia Chisinau. Ricketts failed to settle there and signed for German team SV Wilhelmshaven.

Moving slightly closer to home with each club, Ricketts’ next venture was with Irish giants Shamrock Rovers. A handful of appearances for the Dublin-based club eventually lead him back to England. It wasn't long into his spell at Exeter City in 2012 when the 31-year-old started to feel the travel bug biting again. In the last 18 months, Ricketts has represented Dempo of India and Club Deportivo Quevedo of Ecuador. He now resides in Thailand, where he plays for PTT Rayong in the Thai Premier League.

5. John Charles

If I were to ask you who you think the greatest foreign player to represent Juventus is, who would spring to mind? Zinedine Zidane? Michel Platini? Pavel Nedved? David Trezeguet? According to Juventus fans, it is actually Welshman John Charles. Although John Fox Watson was the first Brit to venture abroad, Charles was the first to forge a long-term career on foreign soil after joining the Bianconeri in 1957.

Charles scored 93 goals in 155 appearances for Juve, winning three Italian league titles and the Coppa Italia twice. Nicknamed ‘Il Gigante Buono’ (The Gentle Giant) by the Juventus fans, Charles' success came at a time when the mere thought of playing football abroad was a bizarre concept.

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