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The loan sharks

The loan sharks


The rules on loaning players are about to change. What problem are FIFA trying to deal with?


Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker. 

One story every day to make sense of the world of football. 

Today… Ryan Bertrand’s not so magical mystery tour.


Last week, FIFA announced a rule change on player loans. 

“FIFA are set to establish new loan rules limiting the number of international loan players. The new rules will see clubs allowed a maximum of eight loans in and out per season, with the number set to reduce to seven from 2023 and six the year after. Footballers under the age of 21 will be exempt from the new guidelines which don’t apply to domestic loans.” 

Optus Sports

Now, I can almost hear you thinking, what about Chelsea? They have loads of players out on loan!

It’s important to remember that this rule only applies to players over 21 who are moving abroad. Changes to loans in the same country will come into force in three years’ time. 

Club-trained players, who have spent at least three years in a club’s youth sector between the ages of 15 and 21, don’t count towards the total.

But yes, FIFA is aiming to eventually stop clubs from hoarding players, they don’t want to see clubs sending players out on a series of loans without ever making a single appearance for their parent club.

Like former Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand.

He showed early promise and was snapped up by a club at a young age. 

Ryan joined the Gillingham youth sector at the age of nine, before Chelsea took him on at the age of 16 for an initial fee of 125 thousand pounds.

When you consider that Chelsea spent more than 80 million pounds on transfers that same summer, it’s easy to see why they were happy for Ryan Bertrand to immediately go out on loan. 

For the sake of 125 thousand pounds, it didn’t really matter whether he was ever going to be good enough to play for the first team. 

And so, he joined Bournemouth on loan…

…then Oldham, Norwich, Reading, Nottingham Forest… and then Aston Villa. 

“Yeah you know, I said fantastic option for me to come to such a club with a massive history and you know a massive fan base so you know to get the chance to come here…play a few games will be er you know a really good step for me.”

Aston Villa

After so many loan moves, you can forgive Ryan Bertrand if he didn’t sound too enthusiastic about his new temporary placement at Villa Park.

And it wasn’t as if he’d flopped at these six different clubs. Norwich and Forest both made moves to make his signing permanent. 

He came third in voting for Reading’s player of the season. He’d represented England at all youth levels.

Next, Ryan Bertrand joined Southampton… on loan. And that’s when he finally achieved some stability. 

In February 2015, ten years after he’d joined Chelsea, he signed for Southampton on a permanent basis. 

He got back in the England team ahead of Euro 2016. And his fellow professionals voted him in the PFA Premier League team of the year.

“The backline was Terry, Cahill and Ivanovic… if you’d still been at Chelsea, that would’ve been a full Chelsea back line. How proud are you of that selection to prove what you have done after leaving Chelsea?”

“Yeah, personally, you know, to get voted in a team of the year by your peers, you know is one of the highest accolades you can get, so it was a fantastic honour for me to get in there and on a personal note to remind me that I’m making good progress.”


Considering he’d made his debut for Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League final, he might’ve thought he had a chance to become an important member of the side.

Yet in ten years at Stamford Bridge, Ryan Bertrand had made just 28 league appearances for the Blues. 

And this is what FIFA wants to stop.

What will it mean for clubs like Chelsea?

At the moment, Chelsea have nine players out on loan. 

Two of those are 21 or under. Which takes us to seven… and that would comply with the limit of eight which will be introduced next season. 

Yet they have a further 12 players on loan in their under-23s side. Three of those players are over 21.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to have 35 players on loan. The Premier League shouldn’t allow it!”


“Because those players should be playing in smaller teams that need quality offensive players.”

“Well they are…but they’re on loan from Chelsea.”

“No, but they should play there full-time. And I know they get say 20 grand a week some of these young kids but it’s not beneficial for their career. How many of those kids you never really ever hear from? Marco Van Ginkel… how many times has he been on loan? He’s been there for about five years! And he has been on loan about four… They shouldn’t be able to accumulate… that’s the word…that many players on loan. I just don’t agree with it.”

BT Sport

And Manchester City are another club with a reputation for stockpiling talent. They have 34 players on loan across their first team and under-23 squad… of which 13 are over 21.

You can see that top sides do have a huge number of players that they send out on loan. Many of them have little to no chance of ever making a first-team appearance. 

They keep the players in case one of them turns out to be the next Lionel Messi. 

And if they have that player in the youth sector, they don’t have to buy them, and that helps them to stay within the Financial Fair Play rules.

But these loan rule changes are incremental. They won’t make much difference… yet. 

And when domestic loans are included in the total, clubs like Chelsea and Man City will have to make a shift in the way they do things. 

At that point, Chelsea won’t be able to sign a player like Ryan Bertrand at the age of 16 and immediately loan him out to another English club, if they already have a full quota of players already out on loan.

And so maybe it’ll eventually mean that players like him won’t spend ten years of their career on a not so magical mystery tour around various football clubs.

Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Nimo Omer.