What do Gael Kakuta, Paul Pogba, Jeremy Helan and Max Clayton all have in common? Apart from being unknown they are all under scrutiny this week as part of alleged systematic tapping up and inducing of young players to join bigger clubs.
After Chelsea were banned from signing players for two transfer windows last week, a bunch of other clubs have now started making claims. Le Harve have accused Man United of luring Paul Pogba, Rennes reckon Man City stole Jeremy Helan, and Crewe are not best pleased with Liverpool for allegedly trying to tap up Max Clayton.
I can understand all this stuff coming out now. If Lens got Fifa to ban Chelsea for the signing of Gael Kakuta, it gives hope to other clubs who previously felt they couldn’t do anything about a big club enticing their star player.
It’s an interesting situation and it appears to be clear that it happens all the time, despite the various denials that have come out. A top club will see a player with great potential, and as you only pay nominal fees for players under 17 or compensate for training and development, will then attempt to persuade them to leave for pastures new. If you think that you can get a potential world beater for the price of a house or a £100,000 payment to a representative, it’s no wonder clubs try to steal players at 16 rather than have to pay £25million when they’re 23.
It‘s not a new situation either. Although it was all above board, I remember the likes of PSG and Barcelona complaining bitterly when Arsene Wenger picked up Nicolas Anelka and Cesc Fabregas for a hundred grand here or a quarter of a million there. You can’t blame Wenger for exploiting the rules, but it must be frustrating that you can’t sign a player to a pro contract before 17 even if they’ve been at your club for years.
Leeds have proposed points deductions but I think a transfer ban is more appropriate in cases where rules have been broken. A ban on improving your squad for a year and a half certainly impacts more than a three point deduction for example. Chelsea especially have an experience squad so could do with an injection of youth.
The one problem with the transfer window ban is that you can appeal it, and whilst the appeal is heard you’re allowed to buy players. This is understandable if you turn out to be innocent but stupid if they subsequently get found guilty as they can speculate and buy with the assumption they will get banned.
Another idea of under 18s not being allowed to move has been floated too. I quite like this as it would level out the playing field a bit and ensure small clubs get more money for the talent they produce. The small matter of having the freedom to work anywhere in the European Union might scupper that rather quickly unfortunately.
So what can be done? I think the distinction needs to be made between offering a player a better opportunity at a bigger club (let’s not forget players change academies all the time) and attempting to reward their family by buying houses/giving money etc. In instances of the latter, transfer bans seem like a good way to go, though it might be difficult to prove wrongdoing a lot of the time. That said, Lens told Chelsea what they were doing was illegal and that they would be banned yet it was no deterrent. Now though, Chelsea’s ban will at least make clubs think twice before trying to poach a player for peanuts. It’s a start if nothing else.