Manchester City are under increasing pressure to add at least one English player to their squad this summer, otherwise they face the prospect of having to defend their Premier League title with an even smaller squad.
Sky Sports News’ Ben Ransom explains why…
In short, it’s a numbers game. Under Premier League rules, every club must reserve eight spaces in their 25-man squad for ‘homegrown’ players over the age of 21. Last season, Manchester City only had four – Kyle Walker, John Stones, Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling – which meant Pep Guardiola could only register a squad of 21 players.
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Why is it a problem?
At the moment it isn’t, but it might turn into one. Guardiola would like to sign three players this summer, but rather than adding to the squad, he could have his hands tied by the rules meaning he can only replace one player with another.
Should City complete their expected £62m move for Rodri then the Spanish midfielder would take up the one slot that’s currently available for a foreign player, freed up by Vincent Kompany’s departure. Any further foreign arrivals would have to directly take the place of an existing player in the squad.
The issue could get even worse if Delph leaves this summer. Although he started both of England’s matches in the finals of the Nations League, the midfielder-turned-left-back has fallen out of favour at the Etihad. Delph’s last Premier League start came in December when he was sent off in the 89th minute of City’s Boxing Day defeat at Leicester, and I’m told City won’t stand in his way if he wants to leave. If that does happen then City’s Premier League squad would effectively be cut down to a maximum of 20 players for next season.
City’s first-team homegrown players (18/19)
- John Stones
- Kyle Walker
- Fabian Delph
- Raheem Sterling
What is the answer?
Adding to their homegrown contingent is the only way that Manchester City can give Guardiola more experienced first-team players to choose from next season.
So what counts as a ‘homegrown’ player?
Although the rule was brought in by the Premier League a decade ago as part of an effort to help benefit the England team, the name is slightly misleading.
‘Homegrown’ suggests the player has to be English – but in actual fact it’s a player of any nationality that has spent at least three seasons training at a professional English or Welsh club before the age of 21.
Premier League clubs are able to sign youth players from EU member states on scholarship terms once they turn 16, and then hand out professional contracts from 17. It’s an advantageous system that has allowed clubs here to attract some of Europe’s brightest prospects. The most famous example is probably when Arsenal persuaded a 16-year-old Cesc Fabregas to join them from Barcelona’s academy. Despite being a Spain international, Fabregas counted as homegrown right through until he left Chelsea for Monaco in January.
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So why not just buy English?
The major drawback with that approach is the price. Because of the rules, high-quality homegrown international players are worth even more to the Premier League’s top clubs, and the selling clubs know it.
Yet Financial Fair Play now prevents the big clubs from just spending as much as they like, so transfer strategies have to be plotted over a number of windows. It’s part of the reason Manchester City have so far tried to avoid paying excessive fees for players, even at the risk of missing out on targets.
However, the balance of their squad means that their bargaining position in relation to signing English players is not as strong as it could be.
Who are the likely arrivals?
Harry Maguire makes the most sense, even if it means City have to break their transfer record to sign him. The 26-year-old England international has his best years ahead of him and City need to buy a centre-back this summer. Liverpool had to break the world transfer record for a defender to get Virgil van Dijk and he was widely credited with their huge improvement last season. Having seen their rivals close the gap, City might see the value in such a deal themselves.
City have also looked at Ben Chilwell and Declan Rice, although it’s unlikely they’ll move for either in this window.
One option out of left-field is exercising their right to buy back Angelino from PSV Eindhoven for £6m, a year after selling the academy product. At 22 he would qualify as homegrown having spent his formative years at the City Football Academy, and he has impressed in the Eredivisie this season. PSG are among the clubs tempted to part with a much bigger fee to sign the full-back, and sources at City believe it would represent good value if they choose to bring him back.