The five greatest British and Irish footballing exports to Spain

It doesn’t happen too often.

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So now it’s official; England international full-back Kieran Trippier has made a surprise £20m move to Atletico Madrid to join up with Diego Simeone.

As Spurs fans jammed phone lines on radio stations as the news broke on Wednesday afternoon to claim that the 28-year-old was “past his best”, many will admire his courage as he goes to the Spanish capital to sample a different culture.

Of course, Brits have been invading Spain and its surrounding islands since package tours were introduced in the early 1960’s, so we’ve been racking our brains here at Paddy Power and come up with five footballers who we think have (probably) been the UK and Ireland’s greatest ever exports.

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Gary Lineker – Barcelona

We kick-off with housewives’ choice Gary “never been booked” Lineker who in 1986 earned a lucrative move to Barcelona off the back of a memorable World Cup in Mexico where he won the Golden Boot for being the tournament’s top marksman.

The fact that the Catalan giants were coached at the time by Terry “El Tel” Venables also helped, but the boy from Leicester didn’t let anyone down knocking in 42 goals in 103 appearances for the Blaugrana during his three years at the club.

Gary learned the lingo pretty quickly too unlike his Welsh team-mate at the time Mark Hughes, who’s failure to grasp basic Spanish made him the butt of all the dressing-room piss-taking.

Lineker won the Copa del Rey in 1988 and the European Cup Winners Cup the year after before Venables vacated his space to Johan Cruyff; who decided that the England striker was better off playing out on the wing.

Steve Archibald – Barcelona

In 1982, British Airways launched a major new ad campaign in the UK using the tag line “We’ll take more care of you” a tune that would be quickly adopted by Spurs fans for their Scottish striker Steve Archibald.

After four years at White Hart Lane, however, the airline was taking great care of the player as he jetted off to Barcelona to join yes, you’ve guessed it, El Tel at the Camp Nou and he promptly went on to help the club lift the league title at the end of his first season in Catalonia.

24 goals in 55 games is a pretty decent return too, but Archibald fell foul to the foreigner rule that was introduced in Spain a couple of seasons later and the arrival of Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes pretty much signalled the end of his time at the Camp Nou. Archibald went on to work for the club’s TV channel and is still revered in the city.

Michael Robinson – Osasuna

Another Leicester born striker, Michael Robinson never forgave himself for passing the ball to Gordon Smith in the dying seconds of the 1983 FA Cup Final whilst playing for Brighton against Manchester United to see his Scottish team-mate fluff his lines with the goal at his mercy.

Liverpool came to his rescue the following season and four years later, the Republic of Ireland international was on his way to Pamplona to play for Osasuna. Robinson loved Spain so much he bought the whole country, and after retiring in 1989 he was awarded citizenship before going on to become one of Spain’s most respected TV personalities in a sort of Jimmy Hill kind of way.

At the end of last year, however, Robinson declared on air that he was suffering with a malignant melanoma which doctors said had no cure. Our best wishes go out to Michael and his family.

Laurie Cunningham – Real Madrid

In a racially unstable Britain in the late 1970’s West Brom boss Ron Atkinson introduced three gifted black players to the nation that would transform football and get supporters on the edge of their seats whenever they got the ball. Striker Cyrille Regis and full-back Brendan Batson were two of these players, the other one was a left-winger called Laurie Cunningham.

Born in Archway North London, Cunningham had everything, speed, skill, arrogance and looks that reduced any female who came within 20 feet of him to jelly. In 1979, Spanish giants Real Madrid came calling and Cunningham became the first British player ever to pull on the famous white jersey.

Scoring twice on his Real debut made him the darling of the Santiago Bernabeu whilst back home, boring Ron Greenwood claimed he had far too much ability to be considered for his soulless England side. Cunningham won the league title in his first season in the Spanish capital, but injuries and a very public falling out with the club’s hierarchy saw him make just 44 appearances in a five-year spell.

By 1989, Cunningham was in his second spell at another Madrid-based club Rayo Vallecano and his last kick of a football was to earn the minnow’s promotion to the Spanish top-flight. On July 15 1989, Cunningham was tragically killed in a car crash in the city.

Gareth Bale – Real Madrid

34 years after Cunningham’s arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu, Welsh wing wizard Gareth Bale headed to the capital to become President Florentino Perez’s latest “Galactico” signing.

Despite scoring 78 times in 155 appearances for Los Blancos, Bale still divides opinion amongst their millions of fans around the world. Injuries have taken their toll for sure, but how can you question a player who has helped the club win a Spanish league title, four Champions League titles and three FIFA Club World Cups?

On his day, Bale is as good as any player in the world, but just like his fellow countryman Hughes three decades earlier; his failure to grasp the local lingo has seen many people throw cheap shots at him in the unforgiving world that is social media.

Current Real boss Zinedine Zidane has told Bale there’s no place for him in his starting XI next season and one can only hope that wherever the player decides to go next, his revenge on the Frenchman will be a dish best served very, very cold.

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