Wales

Gareth Bale transfer: Top 10 of previous Welsh exports

Welsh football sensation Gareth Bale's move to the Galacticos of Real Madrid has made him the world's most expensive footballer. He is following the somewhat mixed fortunes of Welsh players and managers who have previously headed for foreign climes. Neil Prior has put together a list of 10 of Wales' most notable footballing exports.

10. Vinnie Jones

Back in the days before he even knew he was Welsh, 21-year-old future film star and Wimbledon hard man Vinnie Jones found himself surplus to manager Dave Bassett's requirements.

Desperate to prove his worth, at the start of the 1985/86 season, Jones accepted a loan move to Swedish third division side, IFK Holmsun.

His two goals - and even more incredibly only two bookings - helped Holmsun to the promotion play-offs and to a best ever run in the Swedish Cup to the quarter-finals.

On his return to The Dons Jones became a first-team regular, winning the 1988 FA Cup and going on to play for Leeds United, Chelsea and, of course, Wales.

9. Craig Davies

Craig Davies met a club on Monday, signed for them on Tuesday… and he was home by Sunday. Okay, not quite. But Davies's stint as a gentleman of Verona has to rank as one of the low points for Welsh exports.

Having just turned 20 in January of 2006, much was expected of the international striker.

He turned down interest from Charlton Athletic, then in the Premier League, in favour of an £85,000 move from Oxford United to Hellas Verona of Serie B.

But despite signing a five-year contract Davies played just one match in Italy - returning home less than six months later through homesickness.

8. Nathan Jones

Rhondda-Born defender Nathan Jones managed to go one better than Craig Davies, being selected for absolutely no matches for Numancia after joining the Spanish second division side on a free transfer from Luton Town in 1996.

But he did go on to find success in Spain. His 21 appearances for CD Badajoz culminating in a spectacular volleyed goal which nearly earned promotion to the Primera and brought him to the attention of Wales manager Bobby Gould.

7. Dean Saunders

In 1995 Dean Saunders's decision to follow his former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness to Turkey's Galatasaray in a £2.35m deal from Aston Villa seemed to have been a stroke of genius.

The 31-year-old striker netted 15 times in just 27 starts, although legend has it that the first Saunders's wife Helen knew of the move was when he offered to take her on a holiday to Istanbul but did not mention that they would not be returning home for a year.

However things did not go as well when Souness and Saunders joined forces for a third time at Benfica as he managed just five goals for the Portuguese giants during the 1998/99 season.

6. Robert Earnshaw

While Robert Earnshaw's goals for Toronto FC are keeping the Canadians in the hunt for the Major League Soccer play-offs, the Cardiff and Wales star could have been forgiven last year for having a "Mama told me not to come" moment over his loan move to Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv FC.

No sooner had Earnshaw begun training, when tensions rose considerably between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.

He told BBC News: "I looked over at these guys who had many years' service in the army.

"They knew exactly what was going on. One of them shouted that we had to take cover up by the side of the dressing rooms, so we just ran after them.

"Then we heard a loud bang of the Iron Dome - a new protection system used to intercept rockets. We then had to protect ourselves from all the shrapnel coming down."

5. Mark Hughes

In 1986 Barcelona manager Terry Venables had high hopes that £2m Mark Hughes would provide a potent strike-partner for fellow British import Gary Lineker… then proceeded to play Hughes on the wing for most of his miserable season at the Nou Camp.

As a result he managed just four goals in his 28 games. For the 1987/88 season Hughes was loaned out to Bayern Munich where he returned to scoring at a one-in-three ratio.

In fact such was his rediscovered love for football during this period that on 11th November 1987 he played two competitive matches in the same day: A European qualifier for Wales against Czechoslovakia in Prague during the afternoon before hot-footing it back to Munich in time to come on as a substitute for Bayern in a second-round cup game.

4. Ian Rush

While Hughes was making hay with Bayern, his Wales strike partner Ian Rush was having a less happy time after his British record £3.2m move to Juventus.

But while history has gone on to paint Rush's time in Italy as a disaster, he actually scored 14 goals for Juventus in the 1987/88 season of which eight were in Serie A.

While Diego Maradona was number one in the scoring charts with 14 league goals, Rush scored as many goals as Marco Van Basten and more than Rudi Voeller.

Perhaps the impression of it having been an unsuccessful move comes from the oft-repeated quote attributed to Rush, that he described Turin as "like living in a foreign country." However Rush himself insists that this remark was made up by close friend Kenny Dalglish and fed to the press as a joke in order to see how far the rumour would spread.

3. Dai Astley

Dai Astley did not sign for FC Metz until aged almost 40. The Merthyr man had been a pre-war first division stalwart with Coventry, Derby County, Blackpool and in particular Aston Villa, for whom he scored 100 goals in just 173 matches.

His 12 strikes in 13 international caps also helped Wales to four Home Championships during the 1930s.

Astley's European playing stint was to be a short one, scoring only twice in 10 appearances for Metz before injury ended his career.

But this would be merely the start of his foreign adventure as on the recommendation of his Metz boss Ted Magner, Astley landed the job of manager of Internazionale in Italy in 1948.

However a second-place Serie A finish behind the Torino AC team which tragically perished in the May 1949 Superga air disaster was not considered good enough for Inter - and Astley was sacked that summer.

After a disappointing spell at Genoa, he left for Stockholm to take charge at Djurgardens IF.

Second place would again be Astley's lot as his side finished runners-up in both the Swedish first division and the cup in 1951. Nevertheless his four years at the helm there remain the most successful in the club's history.

2. John Toshack

Perhaps John Toshack's managerial reputation has been dented in recent years by his two spells as manager of Wales.

Nevertheless even the most cursory glance of his record reveals that Tosh has been one of Wales' most prolific and successful foreign exports.

After masterminding the meteoric rise of Swansea City during the late 70s and early 80s, his first overseas foray took him to Sporting Lisbon in 1984 where he lasted just one season.

But five years of unbelievable success were to follow just over the border in Spain. His Real Sociedad career saw him lift the Copa del Rey and guide his team to second in La Liga, a record which soon brought Real Madrid calling.

Not only did Tosh secure a fifth consecutive league title for Real, the 1989/90 season also brought both a record points and goals tally which was only broken by Jose Mourinho's side last season.

Tosh also enjoyed productive periods at Deportivo de La Coruna and Real Murcia, and is regarded in Spain as one of the all-time great managers.

1. John Charles

The ultimate yardstick against which Gareth Bale will be judged is 'Il Gigante Buono', the Gentle Giant, otherwise known as John Charles.

In 1948 this Swansea boy's mother worried that he would not be able to go for a trial with Leeds United because he did not have a passport.

It seems unlikely then that this most unassuming of men would go on to double the British transfer record when he eventually went abroad for real, joining Juventus for £65,000 in 1957.

With 93 goals in 155 matches, he won the Scudetto (Italian league championship) three times and the Italian Cup twice during his five-year spell with the club.

This is even more remarkable considering that a portion of his time there was spent playing at centre-back. He was never sent off or even booked throughout his career.

During the Juventus centenary celebrations in 1997, the club's fans voted him their all-time favourite overseas signing and funded the erection of his statue at the gates to their Stadio delle Alpi ground.

But perhaps this superstar of his day is best summed up by the fact that he was still almost too timid to ask for Michael Parkinson's autograph when the two bumped into each other in a Leeds nightclub during the 1960s.

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