In 1995 a Belgian youth international named Jean-Marc Bosman changed the face of football.
Without boring you with the legal ins and out, Bosman is the reason why Juventus can field a world-class midfield composed entirely of free transfers.
Twenty-two years later an English youth international named Jadon Sancho changed the landscape of the English transfer market once again, although nobody knew it at the time.
Fast forward to 2019 and Bayern Munich think nothing of spending £35million on Callum Hudson-Odoi, who’s played just 42 minutes of Premier League football this season.
Remarkably, Chelsea aren’t biting Bayern’s hand off. There’s a genuine tug-of-war for an 18-year-old Englishman who has yet to start a league game.
The types of transfers previously reserved for carefree Football Manager saves have come to life, and it’s all thanks to Sancho.
English youngsters are the must-have fashion item of the football world.
In establishing himself as one of Europe’s most exciting wingers and breaking into the England squad, Sancho has shattered the illusion that English youngsters can’t thrive abroad.
The likes of Glenn Hoddle, David Beckham, Steve McManaman, Gary Lineker, Kevin Keegan and Michael Owen went abroad during the prime of their careers.
However it’s difficult to think of a single player who’s left the safe familiarity of England as a teenager and thrived.
Owen Hargreaves, who moved from Canadian side Calgary Foothills to Bayern at the age of 16, was an exception to the rule rather than a trendsetter.
When Wayne Rooney left Everton for Man United there wasn’t any thought of him joining a Real Madrid or Barcelona, despite being one of the most talented teenagers in world football at the time.
Were that same transfer to happen in the summer of 2019 rather than 2004 it would be a different story.
The success of Reiss Nelson at Hoffenheim and Ademola Lookman at RB Leipzig, although not as seismic as Sancho’s efforts, have only served to strengthen the appetite for English youngsters.
The drive to sign English youngsters makes complete sense from a sporting perspective.
England are the current holders of the Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups, while the Under-21 side won the prestigious Toulon Tournament in the summer.
As a country we should be proud that Europe’s biggest clubs are looking to England to improve their squads, both at youth and senior level.
Just as it’s now difficult to imagine football without the free transfer, we could well be looking back in 20 years and struggling to remember a time when the majority of England’s squad played in the Premier league.
If that’s the case, Sancho will have changed the game.
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