For all its star-studded razz­ma­tazz and week-in, week-out drama, the Eng­lish Pre­mier League is mis­sing one vital ingre­dient: Ger­mans! Since its incep­tion in 1992, a total of only 30 have played in it and today there are only three active German players in the Eng­lish top flight: Michael Bal­lack (Chelsea), Robert Huth (Stoke) and Kevin-Prince Boateng (Ports­mouth). To put that into per­spec­tive, the French for example have con­tri­buted 144 players to Pre­mier League history, with 31 involved cur­r­ently. 

Having made Berlin home for six weeks, I think it’s fair to say the two cul­tures are fairly similar, the wea­ther is lar­gely the same (crap), and that the qua­lity of foot­ball in the Pre­mier League is good enough to be appe­aling to an ambi­tious player, wit­hout being so good it is inac­ces­sible. Jud­ging by the amount of Ger­mans who have helped me out in Eng­lish when I have become tongue-tied, even the lan­guage bar­rier wouldn’t be too signi­fi­cant for any would-be migrants. Why then have so few made the leap? 

One who did do so suc­cess­fully, was Moritz Volz, who enjoyed a fruitful top-flight career with Arsenal and Fulham (he is cur­r­ently sear­ching for a new club). Here’s what he had to say on the topic. 

Are you sur­prised that so few Ger­mans move to the Pre­mier League?

I was always crying out for more Ger­mans in the league and in the clubs that I’ve been at and I’ve thought about why there aren’t more. The players that I do know who did come to Eng­land all tho­roughly enjoyed their time here and look back at it as a really enjoy­able period of their career. I think it would be good to have more German players here, because it’s a fasci­na­ting league. In terms of cul­ture it fits very nicely. There is obviously banter bet­ween the two coun­tries and some history, but I can only speak for myself and say I’ve had ten great years here and I’ve enjoyed playing over in this country and I’ve seen most other German players here have a good expe­ri­ence, too. 

You moved at a young age – how did that affect your deve­lop­ment? Loo­king back, do you think you made the right choice?

I moved here when I was 16. I think what it did for me was inte­grate me more into Bri­tish society and more into the whole cul­ture and life at a foot­ball club here. If you come here in your mid or late-twen­ties you might be so set in your ways that you are less open to new ways and a new cul­ture. The advan­tage that I had when I was 16 was that I was still forming a pic­ture of life – it made me a very open and tole­rant guy, open to all sorts of new influ­ences and not very jud­ge­mental, just seeing dif­fe­rences wit­hout always thin­king these are good or bad’. 

So it was good for you as a person, not just a player?

Defi­ni­tely. I’ve bene­fited from it so much as a person – maybe even more as a person than as a player. At 16, I was still in my edu­ca­tion – even more so cha­rac­te­ris­ti­cally – I’ve never reg­retted coming here. I don’t know where my next move is, but I would be totally at ease with staying in this country.

Is there a big dif­fe­rence bet­ween the Pre­mier League and the Bun­des­liga?

I’ve never played in the Bun­des­liga so I don’t really want to make a jud­ge­ment, but I believe it’s more attacking in Eng­land and there’s more risk involved. In Ger­many it’s more con­trolled and a slightly slower tempo. But tech­ni­cally both leagues are at a high level. Maybe in Eng­land there’s more sheer indi­vi­dual class. 

What advice would you give a German player thin­king about moving to Eng­land?

I think it totally depends on each indi­vi­dual. I was ready for it and I’d like to think that I made a lot of this oppor­tu­nity. I cer­tainly don’t regret it as I said, but I also think that there are some young players that are not ready yet, who might have the option to go. For those who are making the step I would say, be open to things, and don’t be embarr­assed to ask ques­tions. It’s the best way to settle into not just the foot­ball club but the whole cul­ture and life here. 

One player we might soon see in the Pre­mier League is Mesut Özil – would he be a good fit for your old club Arsenal?

I think he would fit very well, but that’s all spe­cu­la­tion. Arsenal scout a whole lot of players every wee­kend and I’m sure that through his good per­for­mances and the talent he’s shown they will be aware of him and he will be on their radar. He is the kind of player that would fit the cri­teria for an Arsenal player, but at the moment it is spe­cu­la­tion and I’m sure there will be a lot written about him and a poten­tial move to any of the big clubs if he keeps per­forming the way he is. His only worry should be to keep his per­for­mances up and then wha­tever hap­pens will be good for him. 

Could German mana­gers benefit from trying their luck in the Pre­mier League, too?

Oh yeah, why not? I’d say whenever you make a move abroad in all walks of life, it’s an eye-opener. And if you go with the right atti­tude, more likely than not it will be a suc­cess story and you will come out of it richer as person. I don’t see why mana­gers shouldn’t make that move – but whe­ther they have the oppor­tu­nities or not depends. There’s been a lot of for­eign mana­gers in the Pre­mier League, some very, very suc­cessful ones, and I don’t see why a German manager shouldn’t go to Eng­land, try his luck, and be suc­cessful there. 

Is there anything you would change about Eng­land if you could?

I’d love to change traffic in London, that’s for sure. But there’s not­hing I want to change in Eng­land – only the same things that upset me in Ger­many: I would like to bring the com­mu­nities closer tog­e­ther, to encou­rage people not to point fin­gers and blame each other, ins­tead of asking them­selves how they can help others and asking what their role is in society. Apart from that I would change the ingre­dients in German sau­sages. Also I struggled a little bit with the food here in the begin­ning, but now I’m a big fan of a lot of Bri­tish things like mar­malade, scones and even mushy peas! I struggled a bit with baked beans but through thousands of pre-match meals I can manage to eat them now.