The npower Championship has seen some great football this season, with some of the finest on show being displayed by north London team Watford.
However, despite their rise up the table in recent months, now sitting an impressive 2nd in a very competitive league, their transfer policy has been the subject of increasing criticism.
Under the current Football League rules, Championship clubs are able to loan no more than four domestic players in a single season, but there is no limit on overseas loans. This is a particularly thorny issue regarding a side such as Watford due to the status of their owners, who also own Serie A club Udinese. They have used their extremely strong ties as owners of both to effectively farm out Udinese's promising youngsters to Watford in a bid to boost their promotion chances.
One manager in particular who has seen this connection as unfair is Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway, who recently said: "They've got some world class players that they've borrowed from almost one club. It seems pretty ludicrous to me."
Indeed it is easy to see why Holloway might see a situation such as this as unfair, with Watford making an incredible 11 overseas loan signings this season, including 20-goal forward Matej Vydra, giving them superb strength in depth, which is starting to pay dividends towards the business end of a hectic Championship season.
Holloway went on to add: "What if Barcelona wanted to buy us and play their 'B' team for us? We've got to sort this out."
So what is the best solution regarding the current loan rules? At the moment, it appears that the preferential treatment given towards overseas loan signings will only encourage clubs to look abroad, rather than give chances to up and coming home grown talent.
Perhaps action could be taken to limit the amount of overseas loans, or to increase the number of domestic ones allowed for teams struggling to cope with smaller squads?
Furthermore, action needs to be taken against duel ownership of football clubs. It creates unfair situations such as what we are seeing at Watford currently, and will only increase the gap in quality between the richer and poorer teams of the football league.
Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see where Watford's loan signings can take them come May, and if it does happen to be a promotion, just how much they will be able to build on it in terms of permanent transfers. One thing is for sure, its a dilemma I'm sure Gianfranco Zola is happy to have.
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