When Jude Bellingham joined Borussia Dortmund 116 days ago, eyebrows were raised not because of his ability or transfer fee, but because he joined Jadon Sancho; amongst others, in moving away from England at a young age. Was this decision based on development? Was it to get more minutes given the historical lack of trust in young English players?
Prior to Brexit and the looming January 1st 2021 deadline, players were able to move to England between the ages of 16 and 18 because of an exemption that exists within Article 19 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.
This exemption; applying only to those transfers taking place within the EU or the EEA, has allowed clubs to trawl Europe, picking up the best young talent to stockpile in their U18 and U23 groups. A wise move when you may unearth future First-Team players for a fraction of the current market rate which culminated in a Summer 2020 Premier League transfer window to the tune of £1.25 billion.
But what if this exemption no longer applies? With the Premier League home grown rule and potential strict permit criteria on the horizon, clubs may be forced to change strategy and focus on the development of their own. If this had happened on January 1st 2020, would Bellingham have stayed?
Since that July 2020 move, Bellingham has become Dortmund's youngest scorer in the DFB-Pokal in addition to becoming the youngest Englishman to start a Champions League game when he faced Lazio in October 2020. Throw in a senior England debut on November 12th 2020, and the move looks like a pretty smart one for all involved.
With the Brexit deadline only 38 days away, questions still linger as to the impact this may have on the prospects for young Academy players in England. Will they still move abroad? Will clubs be forced to invest in their Academies and truly make the U23 League a competitive place for sustained development? Whilst it is far from 'Oven Ready', this may be a key turning point in the future; not only for young players in the leagues, but also for the development of our National Team.
Watch this space....
This could adversely impact clubs by preventing them from signing young talent from EU countries at an early stage, which minimises the acquisition costs. This is particularly relevant for lower league clubs whose smaller budgets make young EU players attractive options. Further, under the Premier League’s Home Grown Player Rule, English clubs must have eight "home grown" players in a squad of 25. Significantly, to be classified as “home grown”, a player must have been signed with an English team for at least three years (continuous or not) before the age of 21. If English clubs lose the benefit of Article 19, the window for qualifying young EU players as “home grown” would be greatly reduced.