With one sumptuous, curling free-kick, Kieran Tripper had sent England fans into raptures. They were ahead in the World Cup semi-final, with the final beckoning them tantalisingly towards immortality. Trippier was the man of the moment, the man whose goal looked set to seal a first World Cup Final since 1966. Of course, it all ended in heartbreak. Croatia hit back to defeat England and Trippier’s early goal became nothing more than a footnote.
Despite that defeat, Trippier’s stock had never been higher than it was after that World Cup. He’d had an outstanding tournament, establishing himself in the side as England’s marauding right wing-back. His set-piece deliveries had caused carnage as the Three Lions scored numerous goals from free-kicks and corners.
Most thought Trippier would go from strength to strength in his club career after that, but his performances suffered a dip in quality last season for Tottenham Hotspur, as the right-back struggled to hold down a place in the first team. Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters provided stiff competition, and ultimately the man who could do no wrong after the summer of 2018 was left struggling for form twelve months later.
But a summer move to Atlético Madrid offers Trippier a fresh start in a new league and new surroundings. The Spanish side are well established now as one of Europe’s best, and having reached two Champions League finals within the last six years, Atléti are always there or there about in odds to win the Champions League, as well as pushing Barcelona and Real Madrid for domestic titles.
The transfer might have represented a strange move to some, but given that Tripper’s Tottenham career seemed to have stagnated somewhat, a change of scenery might be the perfect way to revitalise his performances. Atléti coach Diego Simeone has already taken a shine to the Englishman, and Trippier has become established in the first team.
English footballers have always seemed reluctant to move to foreign leagues, but in recent seasons we’ve perhaps seen the benefit of finding first-team football in another country. Jadon Sancho is the most obvious example; the winger having left Manchester City to sign for Borussia Dortmund in Germany, where he has proceeded to tear up the Bundesliga with his pace and trickery.
Trippier’s case is a little different, in that he’s a good deal older than Sancho, but the overarching benefits of moving to another European League remain the same. It is an opportunity to experience a new culture, on the pitch and off it. Spanish football is a little different to the Premier League, less physical on the whole and more technically focused. However, Atléti are one team for whom physicality is key, and acquiring a player like Trippier who is used to the rough and tumble of the Premier League could be to their benefit, both domestically and in Europe.
Experiencing different styles and footballing cultures can help on the international stage too, and this increased experience may give Trippier an edge when it comes to getting in the England team, particularly as he has formidable competition at right-back in the form of Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Perhaps if more English players were to play in other leagues around Europe and the world, the national team would benefit from that increased awareness of other playing styles.
Trippier already looks reinvigorated in the early stages of this season, and perhaps feels that the pressure is off now that he is away from the intense, blinding glare and scrutiny of the Premier League. With a coach as committed and passionate as Simeone, the right-back may find a newfound bite added to his game, an increased resilience, and a hunger for success. At Atlético Madrid, one hundred per cent effort and commitment is the base requirement, but Trippier will be hoping to reproduce the talents that defined his superb performances at the 2018 World Cup and bring a new edge to this Atléti side.