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September 04, 2007



Quite. And of the drying up of the traditional source of skilful players.

Matt Munro

Symptoms can become causes though.
The cost of developing native talent is high - scouting networks, academies etc - and due to better regulation getting higher. The Bosman ruling also affected club economics, particularly in the lower leagues (I support Bristol City) where the old model of unearthing a muti million pound player every few years and using the proceeds to run your youth set up no longer works as well as it did, now that a player over 24YO can walk for nothing.
It must seem more sensible to some clubs to do away with or scale down their youth set up and buy realatively cheap foreign players as the finished article.
In terms of the impact on the national team (I'm part Italian and follow the national side) the Italian world cup winning side of 2006 was the only one in the competition in which every player played in his home country. By contrast I read that only 60% of professional players in the English leagues would be eligible to play for the National Side. A smaller pool inevitably produces less talent ?


Similarly the cause of higher prices at the top level is less supply of high quality British players brought about in part by the lack of opportunities for progression to become a high quality player (by playing in the top league with the best players). Players rarely emerge 'fully formed' - a small minority will however if you look at the age balance of successful international teams they are weighted towards older players. Also if you look at the teams Premiership clubs are buying foreign players from it is almost certainly the premier, or "first", division of another european or south american teams. They are not buying from the foreign equvilents of our championship. Along with what Matt has said above I think that better explains the situation in England.

As for Italy, Brazil, Germany etc I'd summise top quality sides have more players playing in top leagues and have more opportunities for their country's players to play in top leagues (wherever they may be).


I'm not so sure a smaller pool does necessarily produce less talent. The ultimate pool of young English would-be professional footballers is undiminished. Yes, more foreign players may make it harder for young English talent to get through to the top flight first teams. But the experience that those English players that do make it through - who are by definition the ones with enough talent to have a chance to make the national side - get is excellent. They get to play week-in week-out with and against some of the best players in the world. What better preparation can there be for a national team player?


Foreign players join league and make it stronger and more diverse than other leagues.
So the league becomes much richer than other leagues.
Therefore clubs in the league are rich enough to hang on to their players, they don't necessarily need to sell unless the price is ridiculously high.
Thus, players in other, poorer leagues are comparatively cheap.

It is not English players who are expensive, it is players playing at English CLUBS who are expensive.

mark Brinkley

There is another point you rarely hear made. That is that a world-beating national side only requires an elite pack of 20 or at most 25 players to choose from. It doesn't matter how good or bad the next 500 are, because they will never get selected. As long as the top 25 English players get a regular game in the Premiership, playing alongside the world's best, then this can only be good for the England team.

Except: Joe Cole, consistently England's best player over the past two years, and he can't get into Chelsea's first team.....so maybe this argument doesn't stack up after all.

Mark Wadsworth

What's this 'football' of which you all speak? Does it matter? Is it the same as 'soccer'?

Does a footballer really count as a footballer if he is not married to a Spice Girl or a Girls Aloud?

Alex Galloway

Does it suggest that English talent is scarce or just overpriced? Surely something being scarce is irrelevant if it easily replaceable (in this case, by foreign players)?


Or is the high price of english players a consequence of commercial value - kids buy more t-shirts with their names (e.g. steven gerrard)?


How has no-one mentioned comparative advantage? I'm not sure that anything has changed in terms of what creates good players, just that the opportunity cost of producing these players abroad is lower.

The impact on the national team depends whether you think the best English prospects are making their way to the top - my instinct is mostly yes, in football at least.

If the best domestic players are still making it, then surely the higher quality of the league outweighs the reduced domestic competition in terms of improving the English players.


I don't care as long as arsenal wins games with it's foreign players.

James Hamilton

I'd question whether such a correlation can be established to any proper level of accuracy. But it's my hunch that the current England side is better than the 92-4 one, the 82-4 one, the 76-9 one, the 58-60 one, and the 51-54 one. England tend to go in cycles, and the current one has just run out of steam.

It might be worthwhile defining "foreigners" as the Football League, now the Premiership, has always had a proportion of Scots, Welsh, Irish etc. in its ranks, and has served, pace the Scottish League, as a kind of conglomerate British league for the best British players since it's institution. It used to be argued that a British team would secure more success than an England-alone one, which was the seventies version of this debate we're having now.

Perhaps the real problem lies in the sheer lack of ambition - no one ever seems to express the idea that we should deliberately go out to create the most skilful, tactically-astute youngsters in the world and take steps towards that. But that's what the Brazilians did in the '20s and '30s, and look what happened when that came to maturity.


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