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Why James Milner and Other Footballers Are Overpriced


After the World Cup, being an English footballer is hardly something to brag about. For many critics the term ‘English footballer’ is a by-word for over-paid and over-rated.

However, those critics will be dismayed by the new UEFA home-grown rule which has come into effect this season. Dismayed because it has increased the worth and value of English born players who, whisper it quietly, perhaps don’t deserve it.

The rule states at every club must have least eight “home-grown” players in a squad of 25. To you and me, home-grown may well evoke images of student flats window sills crowded with lush, green, smoke-able plants. But in football terminology ‘home grown’ is a player who has to be registered for at least three seasons at an English or Welsh club between the ages of 16 and 21.

So squads light on home grown players have to buy in Englishmen to make up their quota. Hence we see Liverpool’s interest in Villa journeyman full back Luke Young. In their signing of Joe Cole, it went un-noticed that he would also improve their previously depleted home-grown quota.

Scott Parker has been targeted by Villa, Spurs and by Liverpool ahead of any serious European talent presumably in part because of his nationality. Arsenal need a centre half or three and so the new rule has put Phil Jagielka on their shopping list instead of Wenger’s more usual choices of some obscure French kid who no-one has heard of but turns out to be rather good.

Chelsea’s 21 players who have been given squad numbers so far contain just five home-growners which means a step up for three English reserves or a dip into the market to top up their quota.

Of course, many clubs will buy in players aged 15 and bring through for three years by which time they will qualify as home-grown players. But as this rule was only pushed through last September, we’re a couple of years away from that being possible for every club. So though the intention is to make English-born players have more chance to progress, in the long run, this may still not happen, as English teenagers are rejected in favour of more skilful young foreign imports.

In the short term it potentially gives domestic players a chance to flourish – the doubts that many are merely padding to be used only in emergency remains – but it also drives up the price of English players. They have become more valuable merely by being born here, not always because they are especially great footballers, which can’t be a good thing and may go some way to explain the 30 million quid being asked for James Milner; an extraordinary figure when you consider a prospect such as Ozil is reputedly available for half that figure.

All of which ensures that football continues to walk on the outer reaches of financial sanity.

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  1. tonyspeed

    July 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    i love the home-grown rule. it just means we buy the calf and not the cow. 😉
    16 year old brasilians in england. woo hoo

  2. Gaz Hunt

    July 28, 2010 at 11:09 am

    This is obviously a step-up process. They’ll start with 8 “home-grown” players and step it up to something like 6 English players and 3 “home-grown” players.

    Also, I believe that teams can only have 25 squad members over the age of 21 and as many under the age of 21 as they want (correct me if I’m wrong). This makes young talent even more important – a team can either put 25 veterans on the sheet or say 18 veterans and 10 emerging talents.

    • Brian

      July 28, 2010 at 11:50 am

      I agree regarding young talent, Gaz. If we’re complaining about how Arsenal already complies with the new rule without contributing to England’s side, it’s just an example of how Wenger’s relentless scouting, which focuses on young players in lower-level leagues, has put him ahead of the curve. Maybe the focus on younger talent will also help rein in other teams’ costs: better to spend £1.5 or £4 million for a promising youngster that you can make “home-grown” than to spend £15 or £22 million for a talented player in his late twenties from one of the major leagues.

      • Gaz Hunt

        July 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm

        I appreciate the agreement but seriously… that’s what the rule is right now as far as I can tell. Again, correct me if I’m wrong.

        Eight home-grown players at each club and a maximum of 25 squad members over the age of 21 (but you can have as many under 21s as you want).

        My point is that this rule(s) will slowly get more “strict” / English-centric in order to siphon better English talent out of the league. This is just the first step.

        • Karol

          July 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm


          they use the term “homegrown” because a quota of English players would be against European law. There won`t be a step-up process.

          • Poker Rakeback

            July 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm

            This is true, they can’t just say 8 English ‘homegrown’ players, they would have to open it up to every nationality. They could have made it harder though, say 4-5 years years in England before you are 21.
            They also don’t need to accept young players from countries outside the European Union and therefore zero non European union players should be classed as ‘homegrown’.

  3. McParland

    July 28, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Have to agree that our national teams realy suffered by the influx of teams using over seas players to further their premership chances while jeopordising spelling?the England team.The over seas players get regular football compaired to home grown lads thus assisting their national teams should they be chosen to play.So i fully agree with teams being made to abide by using home grown players and any club or manager who does not agree or comform F**K them Off ASP for the good of the game and certainly for the good of our national team.

    • Dave C

      July 28, 2010 at 11:23 am

      Not sure if it’s that simple – it’s not like England were one of the great world football powers until those foreigners came along…

  4. Poker Rakeback

    July 28, 2010 at 9:13 am

    The rule is a joke, cesc fabragas is considered home grown, when will he be playing for England?
    In fact under the new rules Arsenal make rule quite easily without hardly having an English player in their team.

    Home Grown – play in England for 3 seasons before you are 21.

    Any kid no matter where he is from will be home grown if he has spent 3 yrs in England before turning 21.

    How does this improve the England team? or even mean we will see more English players coming through, the rule is nothing more than a token gesture.

    • Sir Guy

      July 28, 2010 at 11:00 am

      Couldn’t agree more, Rakeback. The rule, as written, is ludicrous and an example of what usually happens when you start quota tinkering. Fuzzy thinking leads to unintended consequences or, rather, garbage in, garbage out.

    • Dave C

      July 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

      Agreed, the rule is ridiculous.

  5. McParland

    July 28, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Oer priced and certainly overpaid.I read the comments of that fool who has just joined Man City Toura? or somehing like that .He is apparently on£200, 000 aweek and he had the gaul to say i hope you do NOT think i have joined Man City for the money its because i like playing football,if thats the case join Stoke City for £30,000 a week must think we were all born yesterday what a croc of shit his comments were .LOL

  6. McParland

    July 28, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Yres they are very over priced and dont forget over paid .I

  7. Brett

    July 28, 2010 at 8:22 am

    The irony of this rule is that while it was aimed at clubs like Arsenal who seem to rarely field English players,they are not affected at all. Arsenal currently has only 16 players who are not “home grown.” Players such as Fabregas, Clichy and Bendtner, to name a few, are “home grown” even though they are Spanish, French, and Danish.

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