Big clubs must explore Football League treasure trove

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Last summer, Premier League clubs spent £485 million on the recruitment of new players, some 33 percent more than had been outlaid the previous year.

This represented the second highest total expenditure ever witnessed in English football - £15 million less than the summer of 2008 - and perhaps was an indication of panic buying with Uefa's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations fast approaching.

The FFP will be introduced for the 2013-14 season and will ensure clubs fulfil the requirement to break even, and calculations will be based on financial information garnered from the previous two campaigns.

This means that last year's transfer window was perhaps the last opportunity clubs had to demonstrate serious financial power in the market, and outlay substantially more than their respective incomes.

Clubs may now be forced to change tack somewhat when the next window opens at the end of the season, and the significant transfer fees of previous years are unlikely to be reached from now on.

If clubs do not meet with the FFP rules, then they will face sanctions from Uefa, most serious among them being exclusion from the Champions League or Europa League, which piles pressure on teams to manage their finances more carefully.

This is likely to see clubs focus more on making investments for the future rather than attempting to land marquee signings, and starting by delving into England's lower leagues would be an advisable tactic.

Attempting to acquire the cream of young talent from the Football League would make financial sense for Premier League clubs and, although there is an element of risk involved with this strategy, there are certainly bargains to be had.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City already appear to be heeding such advice, and are all reported to be monitoring the latest star to graduate from Crewe Alexandra's esteemed academy set-up.

Nick Powell is an 18-year-old creative midfielder, and has impressed all and sundry in League Two this season with his ability to control proceedings in the centre of the field, while he has also caught the attention with a couple of long-range blockbusters.

Speaking to, a Crewe source confirmed that numerous approaches from the Premier League had been made for Powell, with the club rating him at around £1.5 million.

In the current market, such a fee would represent quite a snip for a player who has scored 12 goals from midfield in his debut season, and he is seemingly likely to secure a move to the top-flight this summer, despite Crewe's reluctance to sell.

Another player who is destined to move onto pastures new before next season is Huddersfield striker Jordan Rhodes, who continues to maintain a quite sensational campaign of goalscoring form.

The 22-year-old has found the net on 37 occasions in 38 appearances in all competitions this term, including five of Huddersfield's six goals against Wycombe in early January.

There have, of course, been numerous examples of forwards who have been potent one season and profligate the next, and there is no guarantee there would be some transference in his form, should he move to the Premier League.

But, with a side such as Liverpool desperately short of goals this year, and having wasted significant fees on toothless strikers in past windows, pursuing a deal for Rhodes would be a gamble worth taking for under-pressure Kenny Dalglish.

Although Rhodes is unlikely to be a realistic target for Arsenal, surely the Scotland international could do no worse than Park Chu-Young who, having signed for £4 million last summer, has cost the Gunners nearly £700,000 for every appearance made.

Park, of course, has that highly-valued commodity of experience of playing in European competition; an ambition Rhodes has been no way near to fulfilling in his professional career so far.

But the rise to prominence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is an ideal example of a young player operating in England's lower reaches who has exceeded expectations by making a significant impact in the most high-profile of competitions.

Although the fee Arsenal paid to capture the young winger from Southampton could be viewed as somewhat exorbitant, it represents a significant investment in the future of the club, and one that has already proved to be a shrewd acquisition.

It also serves as proof that the Football League retains a pool of exceptional young talent, but the reluctance to pay the premium on British starlets with no experience in the top-flight has always deterred clubs from the Premier League.

But, with the FFP due to have an affect on the transfer dealings of England's most prominent teams, exploring the Football League treasure trove is a strategy worth employing as clubs come under increasing pressure to operate in the black.

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