By Nathan Brown

Invasion (n). an instance of invading a country or region with an armed force.

With the return of the Bundesliga in full swing, attention has been drawn to the repertoire of talent the league possesses. What was once a league that developed the talents of its own citizens, and those of its bordering nations, has now turned to attracting the fledgling products of British clubs. Such is the significant soar in homegrown talent seeking the challenge of a foreign land, Germany has seen something of an unhostile takeover, a shift in the battlements, and the reasons why appear to be tenfold.

Since The FA realised that a trend was developing, whereby English talent was rarely afforded the opportunity in the first team at their respective Premier League clubs - largely in part due to the quality of foreign imports - it was clear to them that a major rethink was required. Their German counterparts had long been considered one of the greatest and most potent producers of world-class footballers, adept with a technical and physical ability that was often admired and envied across the international football family. What was once a jealousy became an acceptance of best practice, and The FA subsequently sought to replicate and better the processes and structures that saw Germany become one of the leaders in player development and coaching.

Jadon Sancho has become a household name during his time at Borussia Dortmund.

A pathway was drawn up, which aimed to ensure that English players could see a progression through the international age groups from under-16s to under-21s, to the full men’s national team. This would provide a confidence that players who showed a willingness to learn, to develop and to remain grounded would be trusted to rise through the ranks. A recruitment drive also began, headhunting the best coaches available, as well as drawing up schemes to teach high quality coaching courses that would see the best applicants fast-tracked into English clubs and the international coaching systems.

The construction of a world class training facility at St. Georges Park became the key cornerstone of this pathway, bringing English players of all ages, demographics and career journeys together with the goal of submerging them in a positive community of learning and equal opportunities. And with time, the forward planning of The FA bore fruit.

Ademola Lookman has been impressing at RB Leipzig.

At the 2017 under-17 World Cup, England – punctuated by the talents of Phil Foden, Rhian Brewster and the brief cameo of Jadon Sancho (now a Borussia Dortmund starlet), were the winners after defeating Spain in the final in a 5-2 thriller. That same year, England’s under-20 side reached the final of their own World Cup, beating Venezuela 1-0 thanks to a Dominic Calvert-Lewin strike. The full men’s squad progressed through to the World Cup semi-final the next year and were unlucky to lose out to Croatia 2-1 in extra-time. But it remained clear, the pathway was proving successful, and England’s youth production line was now considered to be amongst the very best.

Having seen the first team opportunities Sancho had gained following his move to Borussia Dortmund, other British talents were quick to follow suit. Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson moved to Hoffenheim on loan in 2018, finding the net seven times, while Everton’s Ademola Lookman joined RB Leipzig in the 2018 January transfer window. It seemed an armed force of English footballers were finding a new home on German soil, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping there.


Arsenal's Reiss Nelson spent time on loan at Hoffenheim.

Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu is currently spending a season with RB Leipzig alongside Lookman, who made his move permanent last summer. Likewise, full back Jonjoe Kenny has swapped the Merseyside blue of Everton for that of Schalke, playing alongside former Wales youngster Rabbi Matondo.

As English players continue to face an uphill battle to break into their club's first-team, others have found the confidence following the path laid by Sancho when he made the leap to Dortmund in 2017. However, as a result, Premier League clubs have woken up to the realisation that England are now producing young players who have the technical ability to match those of their overseas counterparts. And with the COVID-19 pandemic likely to limit the transfer budgets of each and every club, casting an eye on their own youth academies could now prove the cheapest and most cost-effective transfer policy for our domestic clubs.

Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu is currently on loan at RB Leipzig.

We could well be seeing the conclusion of this German invasion, with a new dawn breaking for young talented players of our home nations. It might just be that the pandemic proves to be a battle cry, a call for arms amongst homegrown players, which ultimately sees them finally break the tide of foreign opportunities.