The loan system in football is one of the pillars of the game. Clubs tend to send young talent and fringe players out for the season(s) in order to gain gametime. However, in recent times, the whole process has been used to hoard players to a large extent and keep them from leaving on a permanent basis too soon. FIFA has been watching this for some time now, and they are now set to implement some strong rules. The number of international loans is set to be limited to just eight players in each direction for a club (loaning in and loaning out) starting from the 2022-23 season.
FIFA to introduce new loan regulations
Story: https://t.co/aDt8tAP6LM pic.twitter.com/9fBQ5UIkGa
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) January 20, 2022
That number is set to reduce to seven and six in the next two seasons respectively, and domestic leagues are expected to adopt the same within three years. However, players who are under the age of 21 AND have been homegrown (played 36 months at a domestic club between the ages of 15 and 21) are exempted from this. Additionally, two clubs can only deal with three players in each direction at a time while two-year loans are completely done away with. So, what does all of it mean from a player and club perspective?
More players leaving permanently
Starting with how the rules affect players, both the teenagers and the experienced pros. For the upcoming academy graduates and youth players who are looking to make a mark, breaking into your own senior team can be a daunting task. Instead of holding onto their players for as long as the club wants by sending him out on different loans every season, they can actually do a permanent transfer away early in their career.
Told the fee for Kurt Zouma is £29.8millon. Add that to the reported fees of £25million for Fikayo Tomori, £18million for Marc Guehi, £8million for Davide Zappacosta and £5million for Tino Livramento, #CFC have extracted some serious cash from their defenders this summer.
— Sam Inkersole (@Sam_InkersoleTM) August 28, 2021
That can help in furthering the development of the player by giving him regular matches while also benefiting the new club now and in the future. There have been several such examples this season, including the likes of Tino Livramento (Southampton), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace) and Kurt Zouma (West Ham United). Notably, all of these players have left from just one club- Chelsea, who can be said to be clearing house in order to prepare the rule changes.
💵 Chelsea player sales this summer:
Abraham – £34m
Tomori – £25m
Guehi – £18m
Livramento – £5m
Moses – £4m
Bate – £1.5m
Peart-Harris – £1.5m
Ekwah – £1.5m
Simeu – £1.5m
Giroud – £900k
Ugbo – £6.5m
Zappacosta – £8.5m
Zouma – £26m
TOTAL: £134m 🤑 pic.twitter.com/hYq7Bm7Vc3
— LDN (@LDNFootbalI) September 1, 2021
Coming to the experienced veterans who have been outcast, it makes more sense for clubs to let them go permanently in order to keep more youth at hand. Though the level and financial setting may not be to the players’ liking, having played at a certain standard earlier in their career, this can be a golden chance to kick start their career in a different direction. Instead of heading off for MLS or the Middle East, older players can get their chances in Europe itself. Also saves the humiliation of being sent out on loan every so often as well.
Newer strategies for clubs
The perspectives for the teams are, of course, more complex than those for the players. The chance of more financial gain is ripe, selling more players for a sizable fee instead of simply loaning them out. That helps them in shaping up their roster for the future in a more sure manner, given how gametime does not have to be shared too much with the absence of a large pool of players.
Especially with clubs focusing more and more on their academies, this helps them understand which players to keep for themselves and whom to sell on. Loaning players will still remain a key facet for them, but they will be more wary of using the system more wisely.
Another wrinkle can arise for the so-called ‘farm teams’ who have grown in number over the past decade. Having traditionally operated within a tight-knit ecosystem of ownership and player movement, they might have to open up more and more to the outer world in order to facilitate the huge wealth of talent coming through. The number of “favourite clubs” should see a reduction with players having more control over where they want to land up. One cannot have 12-13 players out on loan at the same time so some have to be sold. Naturally, all of them cannot go to the team the club wants.
🌍 City Football Group | The Global Masterplan. pic.twitter.com/uZAIkjZZQi
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) May 11, 2020
Tammy Abraham’s sale to Roma last summer for £36m had a curious detail, not seen before in the other deals. Chelsea have included a buyback clause in the deal, which becomes active in 2023 for around £68m. This kind of thinking will become more and more prevalent in the upcoming years, for a few reasons.
Chelsea are smart to get that £68m buyback option on Abraham. He didn’t fit with Tuchel but 15 non-penalty goals in a PL season as a 21-year-old in 2019-20 is a mark of serious talent. Should be fun to watch in Serie A #CFC
— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) August 14, 2021
For one, clubs may not have the space to fit in a young player in the senior setup right when they break out but will want to bring them back in the future. So this helps both parties, and even though the cost is always high for the future buyback, having the option at least of bringing back a player you have developed.
As with any new initiative, it will take some time to iron out the flaws and make it competent in the long run for everyone involved. Clubs may have to sell some players at a lower price, given the limit on the number of players that can be sent out on loan. That will disproportionately affect teams with lower financial capabilities and can push their league rankings down.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee for a player to play regularly at a new place if there’s a rush of too many new signings. That can lead the player to leave once again after a short period of time which can have a detrimental effect on their young career. Nevertheless, the new rules have more pros than cons and only time can tell how successfully they can be implemented.
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