Loan moves are something that appear to be becoming more apparent in football these days. No doubt during the January Transfer Window many clubs will sign players on loan, with the option to buy. This gives interested clubs a chance to ‘sample’ what they are getting before having to commit to any financial arrangement - a way of equalising information between the buyer and the seller in some sense.
Historically, loan deals where arranged for a number of reasons. Firstly, they could arise because a club was ‘stuck’ and needed a player to fulfill a fixture. This was back in the day when squads rarely went beyond 14-15 players. A second reason was due to a player’s unhappiness at a manager, teammate, etc. The loan deal offered them a route out of a club without the need for money to exchange hands between a third party and the players club. Lastly, loan deals could be arranged for young players in need for first team experience. The loaning club would be one based in the lower divisions, often of a domestic league.
While these options are still exercised, a new sort of loan has emerged. During the 1990s and 2000s clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea developed arrangements with clubs to become ‘feeders’. In the case of United, Belgium’s Royal Antwerp acted as a feeder. For example, John O’Shea went on loan to Belgium during the 2000-2001 season before returning to United.
The big clubs appear to be adopting this approach frequently. The table to the right lists the clubs players on loan for each Premier League club and the number of players on loan to other clubs in the same division. No surprise which clubs are at the top of the list.
Whether this approach is fair is questionable. Financial fair play rules are just one the reasons for this and might explain why this approach is likely to prosper in the future.