Come the close of the transfer window, Chelsea FC are going to be required to submit to the FA a list of 25 senior players who are on their roster. There are also the concepts of what makes up a homegrown player, and what exactly qualifies as a U21. This seems to be a bit confusing to many of the English media, so we're going to quickly touch on the basics here so that we can better understand some of the decisions that the club is making in the coming days.
First, we'll touch on what defines a senior player. For the 2011/2012 season that will be any player born before 1/1/91. Any player born on or after 1/1/91 will be defined as a U21 for the 2011/2012 season. There is no limit on the number of U21 players we can use over the course of a season, so guys like Lukaku and Romeu do not require a roster spot. Therefore, the current list of Chelsea senior players include the following:
Cech, Hilario, Turnbull, Bosingwa, Bertrand, Ferreira, Terry, Alex, Luiz, Ivanovic, Cole, Mikel, Essien, Ramires, Benayoun, Lampard, Drogba, Anelka, Malouda, Kalou, Sturridge, Mata, Torres
That's 23 total senior players, and we'll break them down a bit further after the jump.
Once we've determined who our senior players are, we run into the issue of "homegrown" players. A homegrown player is defined as any player who was under contract with any English or Welsh club for three full season prior to the age of 21. The season in which a player turns 21 will be included as one of those seasons, even if it is only partially played under that age. According to the rules, we may have as many "homegrown" players as we want. We are limited to 17 roster spots for players who are not homegrown, so to carry a full 25 senior players we will need to have at least 8 who qualify as homegrown. Currently Chelsea FC have six homegrown players. Those include:
Terry, Turnbull, Cole, Lampard, Sturridge, Bertrand
That leaves us with 17 current non-homegrown players including:
Cech, Hilario, Bosingwa, Alex, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Luiz, Ramires, Mikel, Essien, Benayoun, Mata, Malouda, Anelka, Drogba, Kalou, Torres
The roster that we submit by 5PM on September 1st is only in effect until January 1st. As the new transfer window opens, we will be free to use as many players as we like until the close of that transfer window in the same manner we can do now. On February 1st at 5PM we will again need to submit a list of 25 players following the same rules to the Premier League offices.
So at this point, any player whom we purchase between now and the end of the deadline will need to be fit into the squad list we will use until 1/1/12. Any U21 player is easy, as they don't count against the roster anyway. Any homegrown player will also be pretty easy for us, as we still have two open spots (which should be one but for the bureaucrats that wouldn't give Slobodan Rajkovic a work permit). Any player born prior to 1/1/91 and not homegrown will have to be accompanied by another move.
The most obvious solution has already been touched on by the team. If we buy a player needing a roster spot, Michael Essien could simply be left off the roster until January. That would temporarily open up a place on the roster, and assuming nobody is lost for the season between now and 1/31 would likely result in a senior player being sold before then.
Option two would be to simply leave a senior player off the roster as Manchester City did with several players last year. Frankly, I don't think too many fans would lose sleep over Paulo Ferreira not being included in our 25 man roster. That could also be an option come 2/1 when we need to add Essien.
The third option would simply be to sell a player. This is probably more complicated than it seems, as most of our "dead weight" are guys up there in age and on fairly substantial wages. We likely won't get much in return for any of them with the possible exception of Alex (who should not be for sale under any circumstances at this point), and some may not want to leave at all as it would likely include a cut in pay. Nicolas Anelka has already hinted as much, so any rumors connecting him to a move should probably go right in the dumpster.
Hope this helps to clear up any confusion you may have had with the rule...the U21 and homegrown rules in particular seem to generate a bunch with the press. Get ready for a rumor filled three days, I'm sure this will be pretty similar to the end of January.