Ok, let’s fix the loan system then (13/05/14)

in Opinion

chelsea loans

The loan system, eh? It’s been a pretty trendy topic of conversation over these last few weeks. What has been traditionally been used to develop young players and give them precious first team football experience has lately seen teams seemingly exploit the system for their own gains over the last few seasons.

The loan system itself isn’t in itself actually broken though, so in order to be able to fix it, we need to get to the root of what the problem is. And in my opinion, what we are experiencing now with the loan system is the knock on effect of player stocking piling and the over inflation of fees in the transfer market.

In 2009, Man City won the lotto and overnight became a cash rich side that demanded instant success. They wanted to compete for titles, and dine at Europe’s top table with the continents elite clubs. And while they seem to have finally got a world class player for every position, they had to go through a few ‘stepping stone’ signings first. They spent big money on some pretty run of the mill players. To name but a few; Wayne Bridge (£12 million), Craig Bellamy (£14 million), Joleon Lescott (£22 million), Jo, (£18 million), Kolo Toure (£16 million) and Roque Santa Cruz (£17.5 million). That’s just to name average to decent players, they also signed some pretty good ones around that time too, but you could argue over-spent on a lot of them. Emmanuel Abebayor at £25 million and Gareth Barry at £15 million I recall raising a few eyebrows at the time.

The problem that occurs when a team who was a perennial midtable side (and had a few relegations in their recent history), suddenly comes into money and wants instant success, is that in order to entice the better players to come to a team not immediately competing for trophies or in Europe, you have to overspend on the initial fee and then pay them more wages than they are likely to get elsewhere. The obvious knock on effect of this to other clubs is; when a club like City put a £14 million price tag on Craig Bellamy, or £16 million on Gareth Barry, other clubs increase the asking price for their players. The Andy Carroll effect, if you will. “If Andy Carroll is worth £35 million, then {insert player name here} is worth x”, is a phrase I’m sure most of us have either heard, or maybe even uttered when hearing another club is looking to sign your teams star man.

So when the market prices become over inflated, clubs who don’t have giant cash reserves, or clubs that want/need to be more financial prudent will find themselves dipping into the loan transfer market. How else could a team like Everton, for example, get a player like Jo on their books when a team like City can over inflate his price tag to a point where they are the only club (mad enough) willing to pay that kind of money for his kind of talent. And there in lies one of the main problems with the loan system as we see it today.

A club like Man City were able to go out and splash cash hand over fist, without any real long term thought or planning, and when they realized that they had just been a little too horny with their new cash and spunked their loads on a bunch of mediocrity, they could simply loan a bunch of players out, in order to enable themselves to buy shiny new toys. Instead of being stuck with a bunch of average players on their playing staff that they couldn’t sell on, meaning no room in the squad for the better players they would go on to sign (Aguero is a definite improvement on Bellamy, I think we’ll all agree), the loan system proved to be a “Get out of Jail Free” card to some degree.

Lets revisit some of those players I listed earlier; Wayne Bridge had 3 loan moves during his 4 year spell at City. Jo, again 3 loans moves during his 4 year deal at City. Santa Cruz had, what, you guessed it? 3 loan moves during his not so illustrious 4 year Man City career. There were others too, of course, Adebayor was on loan at Real Madrid and Tottenham, before ended up at Spurs permanently. Nobody is saying Adebayor isn’t a decent player, you don’t end up at Madrid if you’re not, but its an indicator at the astronomical wages you must be on if big spending clubs like Madrid and Spurs figure that a loan is a more viable option. In the end City had to sell Adebayor at a greatly reduced price, in order to help Spurs subsidize his wages.

I’m going to try and stop picking on Man City here, cause that’s not what I want this article to be about. So, lets use another example. I introduce you to Chelsea. Hmmm, what have Chelsea and Man City got in common? They both wear blue you say? Nah, they both were bought by mega rich owners who want to buy their way to success. Coincidence, or a theme? I’ll let you decide.

Chelsea are no strangers to the stockpiling of players – for shits and giggles, lets run down through the current Premier League teams and see who many players each team have out on loan. A little game for those of you reading at home, see if you can spot the team stock piling players;

table

The loan system allows smaller clubs to be bullied at both ends of the market spectrum. Initially, cash rich clubs inflating the market prices meant that the frugal clubs had to shift their focus to improving their scouting networks and investing in youth. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and for every £50 million Fernando Torres, there is a £2 million Michu. Now though, the bigger clubs want a slice of that action too, and are hovering up all the promising up and coming talent and keeping them for themselves. Clubs can’t even shop in the bargain basement anymore. Instead they now have to take players on loan and develop them for somebody else. Sure, in the past Everton may have signed someone like Lukaku, helped develop him and eventually sold him on to a bigger club – but at least then there would be a nice transfer fee involved and everyone would be happy. Now they are just forced to do it for free.

So, how do we fix it then? Well here at Back-Post headquarters, we had a long, hard think about it, and we came up with a handful of additional rules that could be implemented alongside the current system to help counter act teams looking to stock pile players.

A team can only loan out a maximum of 10 players per season.

–  I think this is a pretty reasonable figure, only Liverpool (14) and Chelsea (30) have more than 10 players out on loan this season.

You can only loan out an individual player a maximum of 3 times.

–  We call this the “Use him or Lose him” rule.
– Stop storing away all the best young players that other clubs could be making more out of.
– Some examples would be; Josh McEachran is 21 years old and hasn’t featured for Chelsea since October 2011. He is currently on his 4 straight loan move and will probably be loaned out again next season.
– Thibaut Courtois joined Chelsea the same summer David De Gea joined Man United, but Courtois has spent his last 3 years on loan, to the same bloody club.
– Frederico Macheda (remember him) has been on loan 6 times in the last 4 years.

You cannot loan a player over the age of 24.
– Was going to go with 23 but left a little more wiggle room; this is an extension of the “use him or lose him” rule.

You cannot a player who is earning in excess of x amount of money.

– If you pay over the odds for a player and offer him way more money than his is worth, that should be your problem and one that shouldn’t be so easily side stepped
– Examples, Emmanuel Adebayor, Wayne Bridge, Roque Santa Cruz, etc

Loaned players are eligible to play against their parent club.
– If you take a player on loan, he should be yours to use whenever and however you see fit

Problem solved. Maybe not quite, but it would be a start and the first step in the right direction.

by Andrew Furlong

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