I hate to be depressing at a time when our hopes and dreams should be running wild, at that time of year when expectation can be completely disproportionate to the reality of a situation, when everyone thinks their club is going to be the one next season. Frankly it is better to never expect too much, doing so leaves one invariably disappointed, and this is certainly the case for the majority of us football fans, whatever team one supports, whichever country one hails from, come the end of the season. I can't be arsed with the transfer rumours, it's largely just hot air made up by agents and journalists, I'd prefer to stick to the concrete.
Certainly the early hints of what is happening in the transfer market are concerning. The new UEFA rules that put an increased incentive on having more 'homegrown' players in squads, just to recap a homegrown player is one who has been at a club for at least three years by their 21st birthday/21st birthday season end, irrelevant of nationality. Essentially we have a limit of having 17 non-homegrown over-21 year old players at the club, then we can only have eight more over-21s if they are 'homegrown' to take it up to 25 players, while the under-21s don't count. Certainly the UEFA rules have led to a more ruthless culling of some of our older domestic talent, and this cannot be a bad thing.
The big concern I have over these UEFA rules is that it is threatening to make a bad problem far worse, that problem being the massively over inflated domestic transfer market for young English players. It was bad enough before the rules came in, clubs have long paid over the odds for domestic talent, and this has long favoured the richest clubs who are the only ones able to afford the top young domestic talent. UEFA's rules are making this situation a whole lot worse, young players are now even more disproportionately valuable and consequently the market has been inflated to an even more ridiculous degree.
The end result is a less exciting and a less competitive Premier League. The small and medium sized clubs have less chance of holding on to their best young talent, this week we have seen two young English lads go for massive fees given their lack of experience, Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones, age 20 and 19 respectively, both going for fees of not much short of 20 million pounds. Of note Jones had a serious knee injury last season which may well cause him more trouble in the future, lateral meniscus repairs are often not the end of the story. The best young players are now being snapped up so young, their clubs are getting so little out of them in terms of playing time, it just cannot be good for the game.
Perversely UEFA's rules are having the very opposite effect of what was intended, they were meant to protect young talent, they are doing nothing of the sort, they are resulting in the best young players being accumulated by a smaller number of rich elite clubs at an even younger age, they have also inflated the transfer market yet further. It is also perverse that the actual 'homegrown' talent at clubs like Manchester United is getting even less of a look in than before as multimillion pound teenagers are shipped in from elsewhere. UEFA's homegrown rules have been a step backwards. The problem has been exacerbated in the UK because our domestic rules make it so hard to bring in young players from outside the EU, putting even more of a premium on our own domestic talent.
I sense UEFA's financial rules will not do anything to help increase the competitiveness of leagues either, it is likely the super wealthy clubs with big sugar daddies will find ways around the regulations, the regulations may sound good but are likely to be utterly toothless. The best thing UEFA could do is to do something about the routine dodgy tapping up of players who are under contract and about the dodgy underhand behaviour of various agents who have no eye on the long terms interests of their clients. This would be the best way to help the smaller clubs compete, as things stand those clubs which splash the cash have things even more stacked in their favour, and this cannot be good for the game we love.