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Norwich City: Why It's OK to Buy Stars from Europe's so-Called 'Lesser' Leagues

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 26: Gary Hooper (R) of Celtic celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the William Hill Scottish Cup Final match between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Stadium on May 26, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Andy WardContributor IIAugust 10, 2016

The process of buying from other European Leagues has always been a talking point in the English game.

There's been many success stories of foreign imports who have gone on to make a name for themselves in England and equally as many stars who have not lived up to their billing. 

Norwich City are a team that has generally tended to look to recruit from other English clubs instead of casting their net further afield, but the club appears to be gearing up for a change in direction this summer, with the Canaries being linked with a series of players from around Europe.

One of those players is Gary Hooper, and after watching Hooper complete yet another brace in Celtic's Scottish cup final victory against Hibernian, I decided to glance at a Norwich City message board to gauge an insight into how Hooper's goalscoring exploits were being viewed by the club's fans. 

Hooper is a name that is more than familiar to Canaries fans after Chris Hughton famously failed with multiple bids to lure the striker to Carrow Road in the January transfer window, but despite Hughton's persistence, a number of supporters clearly remain unconvinced that he could deliver if he was to ever pull on the yellow shirt.

Here is a striker that has banged in 31 goals this season, including netting in the Champions League, but yet some members of the Pinkun message board simply dismissed his achievements out of hand. 

Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I found myself shocked at the level of negativity aimed at Hooper, who was being vilified simply because of the league that he plays in. 

No one can deny that the jump from the Scottish Premier League to the English top flight is a challenge, but players have proved before—and will continue to prove in the future—that it is far from impossible.

Taking Hooper as a prime example, I'm not concerned about his transition to the Premier League should it ever come to fruition.

His goals against Hibs in Sunday's Hampden showdown highlighted just what a clinical finisher he is, as he essentially took the game away from the Edinburgh outfit.

The quality of service from the excellent Anthony Stokes was undeniably a big factor in allowing his strike partner to grab the headlines, but Hooper showed that it doesn't matter if he is playing in the Barclay's Premier League or the Northern Premier League—if you provide him with chances, he will score goals. 

What's more, his all-around game was excellent. He continually brought others into play and led from the front.

He's a striker that has all of the attributes to be a success in England, and at the age of 25, he's only going to get even better.

Potentially pairing Hooper with recent recruit Ricky van Wolfswinkel has all the makings of an exciting partnership for the Canaries, but you can be sure that there will be some who feel that both players aren't good enough for the Premier League. 

Van Wolfswinkel is another player that is perceived to have come to England from a "lesser" European league by completing a move from Sporting Lisbon, but there is absolutely no reason to suggest that he too can't be a success.

It is both arrogant and wrong to assume that the Premier League is considerably stronger than most leagues in Europe, as the performances of the English club's in this year's Champions League showed to great effect.

The likes of Hooper and van Wolfswinkel could conceivably turn out to represent far greater value for money for EPL clubs compared to paying over the odds for so-called "proven" Premier League players, and for Norwich City, it is a recruitment policy that I believe can pay great dividends.

Other divisions—such as the Portuguese Primeira Liga and the Dutch Eredivisie, for example—possess a wealth of hidden gems waiting to be unearthed, and if Norwich can tap into such markets, the rewards could be enormous.

Players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie have both learnt their trade in such leagues before making the transition to England, which is all the proof needed to show that there are quality players out there.

If someone like van Wolfswinkel can deliver even half the impact that the above provided upon their respective arrivals on British soil, the doubters will go quiet very quickly indeed.

 

Follow Andy Ward on Twitter.

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