Getting To Loan You

In football the time was that, if you’d caught wind of a promising young talent overseas, you’d send a scout over, put him up in a semi-decent hotel and let him report back to you at the office with a bag full of duty-free to tide you both over.

Getting To Loan You

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March 3rd, 2014

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But with the rise of footballing ‘networks’ – groups of clubs owned and operated by the same person or people – all you get now is a daft takeover bid followed by wholesale changes to your next match-day line-up.

On a typical Tuesday night about this time last year, Watford beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 to make their move on an automatic promotion place to the Premier League. Then-manager Gianfranco Zola made shrewd use of the players at his disposal – talents like Fernando Forestieri (playing his first game as a permanent player after signing from Udinese), Mateh Vydra (then on loan fron Udinese) and Joel Ekstrand, then on loan from…

Hmm. I’m detecting a pattern here. A black-and-white one. That plays in Serie A. That being said, owner of both clubs Giampaolo Pozzo was merely exploiting a loophole which counted foreign players on loan as full transfers and not part of the limit. The FA has since tightened up on these limits – but not before the side were minutes away from reaching the Premier League last May with the full services of a large group of players loaned from Udinese and Spanish side Granada, Pozzo’s other club.

The takeover of Charlton Athletic at Christmas by Belgian celebrity tycoon Roland Duchâtelet has resulted in an even less subtle approach to player recruitment and team targets. The 67-year old owner of SIX football clubs – four in Belgium – flat-out stated to the press today that Addicks fans shall have to face reality.

“This club…needs to make money. It’s not to be excluded that some players will be sold to Standard Liege and play Champions League.”

True enough, it’s the dream of any young footballer to be plucked from the Championship’s bottom three and skyrocketed into Europe’s premier competition – and their worst nightmare to go the other way; an equally likely permutation of this player network.

With six football clubs jostling for the attentions of their owner, can the 18th richest man in Belgium really say he’d treat them equally?

“If you have five children what is the priority between your children? They are all your priority. I think that is the right attitude.”

Again, all very well and good, but if one of your children is struggling at the bottom of the second division of…erm, school, while the other could be on their way to continental education, is it really fair to…erm…steal IQ points off the former to boost the latter’s well-being?

Okay. Horrible metaphor. But you get me. We’ll just see who really gets the parental love though, when the Championship kid could be worth £120m after graduating.

(Note to self: be nicer to nephews.)

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