Increasing instances of loan deals are not good for football

  • Sumil Sudhakaran, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 02, 2016 20:42 IST
Alexandre Pato signed a loan deal with Chelsea. (Photo: Chelsea FC)

Shutters are down and locked on another transfer window in Europe.

Taking stock, of all the 137 registrations done (ins and outs for each club) in the English Premier League, 73 are loan deals. There are, of course, duplicates, for instance Steven Naismith’s loan transfer from Everton to Norwich is being counted twice for registrations at both ends. Such cases are, however, few, meaning most Premier League clubs opted for loan transfers rather than permanent move this transfer window. Is that a good sign?

Loan transfers are in place for a reason. It gives clubs an option to temporarily supplement for an injured player, or generally strengthen their squad without breaking the bank. From a player’s perspective, it offers the leverage to get more playing time at another team without having to sacrifice his ambitions at the parent club.

But loan deals such as Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato’s from Corinthians to Chelsea do not really fit into these scenarios; the London clubs are not really short of strikers, regardless of their efficiency up front.

Chelsea, it may be noted, have become experts in exploiting the regulations over loan transfer. The club has been known to park many youngsters on loan transfers abroad, mostly at their feeder clubs such as Vitesse Arnhem of the Netherlands. These are not necessitated by an injury crisis or a need to strengthen a squad. The excuse of honing talent by giving them playing time abroad too doesn’t really hold water.

The high number of loanees, 27 when counted last year, suggests the club are recklessly buying young footballers from other clubs, usually financially weaker, and experimenting them at feeder clubs. It is a sort of pan-Europe footballing laboratory funded by Roman Abramovich.

Chelsea are not the only club exploiting the loan regulations. In fact, most bewildering loan deal in Europe this transfer window was done in Italy. Inter Milan, in an attempt to reverse their recent drop in form, have signed Eder from Sampdoria on a two-year loan deal.

The longevity of arrangement is baffling, had they identified the joint-second best goal scorer in Italy as a way to recover their lost prominence wouldn’t a permanent deal be more legitimate?

One of the reasons, clubs across Europe are prioritising loan transfers over permanent deals is thought to the Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulation. According to the website LawInSport, by opting for the former, the clubs are able to keep their balance sheet tidier, and hence avoid being flagged by the football authorities for their weak financial structure. Inter Milan’s Eder deal is a prime example of this.

The loan transfers, certainly, are not unregulated; they have to abide by the Fifa laws in the same way a permanent transfer has to. The International Transfer Matching System ensures every transfer, be it on loan or permanent, are tracked.That, however, does not abjudicate the pre eminence of loan transfers. It is not a case of breaking the law, but one of clubs getting ahead of the law, and ethics.

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