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A Fatal Reluctance To Play Football Abroad Continues To Kill England

Having fallen down the midfield pecking order at Arsenal, Jack Wilshere reportedly demanded a loan move during crisis talks with manager Arsene Wenger. Dropped from the England squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers by recently appointed manager Sam Allardyce, Wilshere rightly realized that he needed more minutes to win back his international place.

The injury-prone 24-year-old was reportedly the subject of over 20 enquiries from clubs around England and Europe who’d been clued to his availability for a season-long loan. 

AFC Bournemouth and Crystal Palace were keen to keep the talented midfielder in England, but there was also rumored interest from Italian clubs like Juventus, AS Roma and AC Milan, Spanish side Valencia, German club Borussia Monchengladbach and Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon.

So, what would it be? A stint with the Italian champions under the tutelage of one of the most tactically intelligent coaches in the world, Massimiliano Allegri? 

How about a year in the stunning Mediterranean port city of Valencia, playing La Liga football in front of 55,000 supporters at the Mestalla Stadium? Not to mention the opportunity to make Pep Guardiola choke on his own valuation of Wilshere: “Wilshere is good but nothing special. We have hundreds of him in Spain. He is overhyped because he is English, that is all.”

Of course he must be equally tempted by the Eternal City of Rome — joining a midfield with the likes of Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Florenzi and Kevin Strootman? 

In the end, Wilshere elected for Bournemouth, a coastal resort town that has the highest percentage of people aged 85 or over in England. That’s the Bournemouth that plays in front of less than 20,000 spectators at Dean Court and is in the midst of their second ever season in the English top flight.

What the Cherries have accomplished recently is no small task, and manager Eddie Howe is the best young English manager around, but it all rings extremely hollow when Wilshere’s career trajectory is analyzed.

In 2011, Wilshere’s performances for Arsenal over the course of their two-legged Champions League tie with Barcelona saw him dubbed the future of the England midfield. He appeared all but ready to play for Barcelona should the chance arise, Dani Alves going as far as to encourage the Spanish giants to sign him. 

Constant ankle, foot and knee injuries have hampered Wilshere’s progress, with English legend Paul Scholes lamenting that, “Jack Wilshere, he came on the scene and what a top player he looked, but he’s never really gone on. He needs people like [Patrick] Vieira to take him to the next level. His development, he doesn’t look any better now than he did at 17.”

Wilshere, at this point, needs something dramatic to reignite his career. After eight seasons with Arsenal, it’s clear that he’d become to comfortable in his surroundings. Realizing that he’d suddenly fallen to as far as sixth on Wenger’s list for preferred midfielders must’ve been a massive shock to him this August — for so long his place had been assured when fit. 

Wilshere clearly wants to fulfill his potential with Arsenal, and a move within the Premier League ensures that he’s never too far from realizing that goal. 

Why he believes that a move abroad could somehow see him fall from the national conscious or inhibit that ambition seems to be systematic of England’s international failings as a whole.

While Spain has shipped 17 players from La Liga to the Premier League this summer alone, English players are reluctant to go abroad while hardly making a splash in the EPL. 

Only 31 percent of Premier League players are English, and, of that percentage, very few of those actually manage to play on a regular basis. 

Wilshere will get significant minutes with Bournemouth, much like he could’ve with Crystal Palace. But will a man with 34 international caps to his name, who’s almost six years removed from being named the Young Player of the Year, really be expecting to do anything other than log minutes in a city which is more iconic for its pier than its football?

Follow me on Twitter: @ConmanFleming

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