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How would FIFA’s new loan restrictions affect Chelsea and the Loan Army?

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Bad news for Chelsea?

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Super Cup Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has made it one of his goals to enact some sort of reform in the rules governing professional football around the world, and according to reports from Germany this week, broken first by SportBILD, that has manifested itself in a proposed rule to restrict the number of players a club is allowed to send on loan at any one time.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the FIFA Executive Committee, but most expect it to pass. After that, clubs would have a brief but as yet unspecified transition period during which they’d have to bring their squads into order, or face sanctions (presumably).

As Chelsea are one of the foremost proponents of using loans in the world of football, and, especially in England, are often brought up as everything that’s wrong with them — honorable mentions include Juventus, Manchester City, Watford, and many others ... all of whom pale in comparison to Parma’s “human trafficking back in the early 2000s. Their loan armies used to number in the hundreds.

In any case, what would this rule mean for Chelsea and our 40-strong Loan Army?

If you believe the headlines, doom and gloom. But of course that’s not quite the case.

In short, FIFA intends to restrict clubs to a maximum of 8 loan players at a time, though this would exclude any player under the age of 21 (born on or after January 1st 1997 for this season) who have been at the club for a “long enough” period of time. There’s no official word yet about the minimum requirement of time that would be, so we’ll have to wait and see whether or not, for example, a potential future loan of Ethan Ampadu would count as one of the 8 senior loan spots. Additionally, Chelsea would only be able to loan out “3 or 4” players to the same club, though, historically, this shouldn’t pose a problem at all.

Of course, if the changes were to be implemented tomorrow then the Blues would immediately find themselves not complying with the rules. Chelsea have a total of 40 players out on loan this season and only 16 of those wouldn’t be affected by the new ruling as they’d comply with the U21 exception.

As per @chelseayouth, those 16 right now would include:

Tammy Abraham, Nathan Baxter, Izzy Brown, Trevoh Chalobah, Jake Clarke-Salter, Brad Collins, Jay Dasilva, Reece James, Jacob Maddox, Mason Mount, Josimar Quintero, Ruben Sammut, Kyle Scott, Dujon Sterling, Fikayo Tomori, Iké Ugbo

Leaving the following 24:

Ola Aina, Victorien Angban, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Lewis Baker, Michy Batshuayi, Jamal Blackman, Charlie Colkett, Fankaty Dabo, Eduardo, Kylian Hazard, Michael Hector, Tomas Kalas, Todd Kane, Kenedy, Matt Miazga, Charly Musonda, Nathan, Kenneth Omeruo, Kasey Palmer, Danilo Pantic, Mario Pašalić, Baba Rahman, Joao Rodriguez, Kurt Zouma

If Chelsea had to make do without those players, would we be “in crisis” as the headlines make it out to be? Unlikely, to say the least. There’s a reason those players are on loan, and Chelsea could still retain 8 of them still as per the proposed FIFA rule. @chelseayouth guesses those eight, in this case, might be: Aina, Bakayoko, Baker, Batshuayi, Kenedy, Musonda, Palmer, and Zouma. The rest could be cut loose or sold for pennies on the dollar. At the end of the day, not a big deal or a big loss.

In fact, the new rule could held cut down on the amount of “deadwood” at Chelsea and make the Loan Army a much more useful concept for the club in terms of actually developing players for the first-team. Players such as Hector, Nathan, Kalas, Baba Rahman, and so on and so forth are long past their potential window of ever making it at Chelsea and now they only serve to inflate the Loan Army’s numbers.

Chelsea’s loan system was initially established to help achieve the aim of becoming self-sufficient and has, arguably, worked exceptionally well in contributing to that goal over the years. As bonus, we’ve even unearthed some tremendous assets, such as Thibaut Courtois and Andreas Christensen. This new ruling, combined with Michael Emenalo’s recent departure, could dry up that added source of income. But it’s certainly not the end of the world.


P.S.: There’s also an excellent series of tweets from @chelseayouth regarding the often brought-up argument of “fairness” when it comes to loans and loanees. The situation, as ever, is far more nuanced than any media or governing body will ever let on.