Five former La Liga British and Irish players: Hit or miss?
Burnley’s in-form forward and Under-21 international Danny Ings has been the subject of increased speculation linking him with a Spanish switch from England’s top division to David Moyes’ Real Sociedad.
The Clarets, 13/8 with Coral to stay up, have been heavily reliant on their star striker this season after netting nine times to give Sean Dyche’s relegation-threatened side a chance of survival.
Following the recent reports, Coral writers look at former British and Irish top-flight stars who swapped the Premier League for La Liga, and whether they succeeded in their Spanish conquest.
Gareth Bale – hit
Probably the highest profile mover from England to Spain since David Beckham’s arrival at the Spanish capital. Former Tottenham forward Bale captivated England’s top-flight with majestic displays, earning himself a variety of personal accolades, including the PFA’s Player of the Year and Young Player awards.
In 2013, Bale completed a reported £85.3m world record transfer to Spanish giants Real Madrid, becoming the most expensive player in history. Despite reports of an uncertain future, the Welsh wizard struck in the Champions League final against capital rivals Atletico Madrid, to help his side claim a record 12th European Cup.
The former Southampton wing back also became the first ever Welshman to score in a European Cup final, and finished his debut season with an incredible 22 goals and 16 assists in all competitions, proving his worth to Carlo Ancelotti’s Galacticos.
Gary Lineker – hit
In 1986, the former Leicester City and Everton striker sealed a transfer to Catalan giants Barcelona, following rampant goalscoring form in England and claiming the Golden Boot at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
His anticipated move to the Nou Camp did not disappoint, firing in 21 goals in 41 outings during his first term in Spain. Lineker went on to strike Barcelona to Copa del Rey glory in 1988 and a European Cup Winner’s Cup triumph the following year, also famously hitting an El Clasico hat-trick against Madrid.
Steve Finnan – miss
Former Republic of Ireland right back Finnan played a vital role in Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League victory, while also featuring for his country at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan.
On summer transfer deadline day in 2008, Finnan agreed a two-year deal with La Liga outfit Espanyol, and was eventually considered to be an important member of the side. However, after one lacklustre season, the Irishman returned to the Premier League with Portsmouth, ending his Spanish struggle.
Jermaine Pennant – miss
Former Liverpool, Arsenal and Birmingham City winger Pennant failed to make a big impact in the top-flight until a move to the Merseyside giants in 2006.
During a three-year spell at Anfield, the controversial wideman won the Community Shield and also played a huge part in his side’s progress to the 2007 Champions League final, where AC Milan emerged victorious.
However, Pennant joined Spanish side Real Zaragoza in 2009, where he experienced a troubled career, starting off well but eventually leaving after disciplinary incidents, which included an absence from training three times in two weeks.
Michael Owen – hit
Regarded as one of the top-flight’s most deadliest ever strikers, Owen earned himself a sensational switch to the Galacticos in 2004, following eight prolific seasons in the red half of Merseyside.
The former England marksman joined a host of superstars at the Bernabeu, including Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and former international teammate David Beckham.
Owen overcame criticism from Madrid fans and the Spanish press to regain rampant form, and memorably scored the fourth goal in Madrid’s 4-2 El Clasico triumph over Barcelona, winning over many of the club’s supporters with his derby day heroics.
Owen’s former club Liverpool have been rejuvenated this season and are still in the hunt for a famous FA Cup triumph, with the Reds available at 5/2 to lift this year’s trophy.
Watch Owen brilliantly slot home Madrid’s fourth goal in their 4-2 triumph over Barcelona.