The loan system: A vicious circle that results in a broken market

Scott Salter

Upon his appointment as Liverpool manager last season, Jürgen Klopp immediately set about recalling some of the club’s youngsters from their loan spells. Danny Ward returned from Aberdeen, Sheyi Ojo returned from a loan at Wolves and Tiago Ilori from Aston Villa – among many others.

Why did he do this? Well, Klopp explained:

“These are our players and we have a situation. In my opinion, the best skill and the biggest talents should be in your own club so they can play together at under-21 and develop as a team.”

– Jurgen Klopp

Is Klopp onto something? Maybe.

It does, though, raise a question of the effectiveness of the loan market? For a highly-regarded, successful manager to come to the UK and instantly question the merit of the British loan system there must be some flaws.

Looking back, there have been countless examples of successful loans that have proved fruitful.

Manchester United sent David Beckham on loan to Preston North End in 1994 to aid his development – we all know how that worked out. Similarly, in 1995 West Ham United sent a young Frank Lampard on loan to Swansea to aid his progress as a young player. Again, that move proved beneficial.

A young Jermaine Defoe was signed by Harry Redknapp’s Bournemouth as a youngster and proved a hit. He scored an impressive 18 goals in 27 games, including a record-equalling ten goals in successive games.

In more recent times, Kasper Schmeichel, a now Premier League winner, having a successful season spell at Cardiff City, as well as others, which has no doubt improved his game and his development.

There’s no doubt that temporary spells can be productive for young players. All of those mentioned above are examples of loan spells working well. Each left their parent club in search of first-team experience, developed and improved their game, and returned to conquer Premier League football.

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In contrast, though, so many temporary transfers are a complete waste of time. Liverpool’s once-promising youngster Dani Pacheco was shipped around to various clubs on loan and, despite impressing at Norwich, was never given a chance in the first team.

In the modern game, the loan market seems to be increasingly misused by larger clubs. Their top talents are shipped out on loan to club after a club and are never even given a chance in the first team.

Examining Chelsea’s transfer activity shows an alarming number of players being shipped out on loan, with little development or clearer route to the first team. Of the 24 players who spent the 2015/16 season out on loan, only three are at the club this season. Five have been sold and 15 were sent on loan again.

Will these loans prove productive? Maybe. Most of these players will have played first team football at some point this season – something they would not get at their parent club.

Will the loans prove worthwhile, though? Almost definitely not. Of those out on loan again this season, only a small percentage will get a chance in the first-team next season.


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So, how is the loan market used these days? Evidence would suggest that some of the bigger clubs in British football are hoarding top talents in the hope that one or two come good.

The problem is that most of these big clubs, with Chelsea a prime culprit, do not give these talents a chance to make the grade. The likes of Nathan Ake, Nathan Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have all been involved in Chelsea’s first team squad this season, but with limited minutes. In the Premier League, Ake has made one appearance, Chalobah six and Loftus-Cheek eight – all have been made from the bench, and none have started a game in the league.

It’s hard to argue that Ake, in particular, would not have benefitted more from staying at Bournemouth, where he was starting every week and earning plaudits, than sitting on the bench at Stamford Bridge.

The loan system in the UK is certainly broken. The benefits of using loans to develop players are being abused by big clubs who are stockpiling young talent without giving them the chance to progress.

As a result, the young players aren’t developing as well as they should. On the other hand, for lower league clubs, getting these players in on temporary basis from bigger clubs blocks the progress of their own young talents. It’s a vicious circle that results in a broken market.

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