Over the last five years a number of top clubs have adopted the philosophy of signing players at a young age - then sending them on loan to gain experience.
However in the long run does this affect the player’s growth as a player in a positive or negative way?
An example of a club who follow this idea is Chelsea; the west London club had a staggering number of players on loan across Europe last season. Some of the youngsters such as Belgian duo Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne plus Nathaniel Chalobah at Watford have relished the opportunity of first team football and impressed throughout the campaign. They have showed what the loan system can provide and improved as a player gaining valuable experience.
Yet some players have been victims of the loan system such as English youngster Josh McEachran who showed great promise when he first burst on the scene for the blues but since has been sent on two season long loans in which he hasn’t lived up to his full potential. The midfielder is still only 20 years of age so has plenty of time to progress for the club however the last two years have been disappointing and a waste of time.
Many people working in football believe it would be better for the top clubs to keep some of the young players and use them in less competitive matches such as the League Cup, this would give the youngsters a chance to get used to the sides style of play and the other members of the squad.
Other clubs have been accused of abusing the loan system such as play-off final runners up Watford. The hornets benefited hugely from the system with 14 signings from abroad, 10 of which came from Italian side Udinese who are owned by the same family as Watford. One of those 10 was the highly influential striker Matej Vydra who was voted Championship player of the season, however Watford now face the tough task of trying to keep Vydra and many other players after a long campaign ended in heartbreak after a play-off final defeat against Crystal Palace. After many players impressed Udinese may be willing to recall some players which could affect Watford’s promotion hopes next season, this is another criticism of the loan programme.
Furthermore problems such as this shouldn’t occur as much after all 72 clubs football League clubs voted to bring international loan regulations in line with domestic rules at the League’s annual meeting. The change in the ruling stats that only five players loaned from overseas can be named in match day squads with only four from a single club. Also only a maximum of eight players can be brought in on loan throughout the course of the season. This is a positive change as it encourages clubs to use their academies and develop their own youth instead of looking for temporary talent abroad.
As we have seen with Spanish giants Barcelona investing in youth can have some fantastic results, on the other hand other players have relished the chance of regular first team football. Many teams across Europe use the loan system with both positive and negative effects; it will be interesting to see what direction most clubs take in the future on the development of young players.
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