The dark side of the loan

The road to reform is often like that of hell, paved with good intentions. The last battle in which Fifa has ventured is that of loans. The premise, that is good intentions, is a refrain repeated for years also by UEFA: to impose a more sustainable and virtuous football model that encourages clubs to enhance the work of nurseries, focusing on home-built players and not on those weaned by other. Since once the law is made, deception is also quickly found, a certain skepticism regarding the reform that will come into force in July is more than understandable. Take, for example, the rule on the lists for A, borrowed (and adapted) from the Uefa model: did they really support the policy of nurseries or did they instead push our clubs to fish with greater insistence for the unders abroad to lengthen the roses? The answer is written in numbers and it is the second.

Let’s go back to the new lending rules. The premises themselves appear to be shared. More transparency on the economic conditions and on the objectives to which the redemption obligation is to be bound; a one-year limit and a stop to “loan on loan”, two solutions that Italy had recently introduced (the first, the two-year loan, was in fact replacing the old co-ownerships, a formula that only existed in Italy). The most disruptive scope of the reform, however, is another: a ceiling for players to be able to borrow and lend (eight entrances and eight exits for 2022-23, then it will drop to seven and then to six) plus a limit. of three loans from or to the same club. On the one hand, it puts a stop to the delusions of grandeur of companies that manage to control a disproportionate number of professionals, all of them to be laboriously sorted around; on the other hand, certain technical partnerships are undermined which risk reducing some clubs into real branches.
The Fifa regulation, automatically implemented also by Italy, risks profoundly upsetting the summer strategies, with heavy cascading repercussions also in B. With some exceptions, however. Cremonese has just returned to Serie A, valuing players such as Carnesecchi (Atalanta), Fagioli and Zanimacchia (Juventus), Gaetano (Napoli), Meroni and Sernicola (Sassuolo), all on loan. He will be able to continue asking for players from the big names, because for the Under-21s and players trained in the club, there is no limit to temporary transfers. In this scenario, there is an intertwining with the incentive and reward mechanism that the B recognizes to those who employ blue-sky youngsters according to the minutes, but this is a separate discussion that should be deepened. With the new rules, if anything, that transfer of players fished abroad and left to mature among the cadets should decrease. We will see.

Considering only international transfers, loans in recent years represent 13-16% of jersey changes; in the five top leagues the percentage rises to 22% for Italy and 29% for England. In its “basic” version, temporary membership is the fastest formula to close a deal: there are those who thin out the squad or send a young player to play continuously and those who ensure a technical heritage that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. In the advanced version, with the right / obligation of redemption, it is the application of leasing to the game of football: first you try, then you buy; or simply buy it by pretending to try and then pay off after a few months. If we consider the 20 teams of the last Serie A plus the three newly promoted ones (Lecce, Cremonese and Monza), they have a total of 135 players on loan. Most of the contracts (87) were signed providing for the possibility of definitive purchase; in cases the ransom could become (or has become) obligatory. Countervalue: 575.38 million euros. We are more than half of the entire turnover of A purchases in 2021-22 (797.87 million), even if not all the potential will turn into real spending. Between obligations not triggered and redemptions suddenly assessed as too expensive, many will return to the base and then leave again. Here it is, the perverse side of the loan: there is a risk of being just an item in the balance sheet and never a name in the match report.

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