By: Drew Pilewski
Lucas Piazon, a young attacking player for Chelsea spoke out this week against Chelsea’s loan policy after being loaned to Fulham for the 2016/17 season.
“It makes no sense to go out on loan all the time,” said Piazon in a report to the Daily Mail. The Chelsea forward has only made one appearance for his club since he came to Stamford Bridge in 2011 from the Brazilian Club Sao Paolo. Since then, he has spent a year at Málaga in Spain, one year at Vitesse in Netherlands, one year at Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany, and one year at Reading in England before this season.
“It is not good for any player in my experience – or the experience of the other boys. I don’t see it as a positive thing any more. To be in a different place every year is not good for me at 22,” said Piazon. These words are a strong statement from a player in Piazon’s situation. He has not played a full 90 minutes for Chelsea and he is criticizing their loan policy. Many are responding with comments saying he is out of line
Who better, I guess, than Piazon to talk about the problems of loaning players? His situation is not an uncommon one in modern soccer. Many players who have gone on multiple loan spells in their career have never broken through at their real club.
This was the case for Brazilian forward Wellington Silva. He was purchased by Arsenal at the tender age of 17. He was a promising and quick striker with flair from the Brazilian powerhouse club Fluminense. He was initially offered a work permit by the English FA, but it was then revoked. So, Arsenal loaned him out to Levante, Alcoyano, Ponferradina, Murcia, Almeria, and finally to Bolton Wanderers for the 2015/16 season. This summer Arsenal had to make a decision about the now 23 year-old Silva. When weighing the options, Arsenal decided to sell him back to his boyhood club Fluminense.
This demonstrates the pitfalls of a player who is locked in a loan rut. Just as a reminder, Arsenal went out and purchased Lucas Perez, a player with similar attributes to Silva the same year they let Silva go. This just shows how quickly loan spells can put a player out of an organization’s mind. Silva was not training with the team day in and day out these last six years and he has found himself back in Brazil where he started. I think the concept of “out of sight, out of mind” is evident when considering how few players that go out on loan end up making the first team.
If so few players end up making the first team, then why send players out on loan in the first place? It has become quite popular for bigger clubs to snap up young exciting prospects for relative pocket change in hopes that it will find a star, but why do it if most of them fail?
It is all about risk and reward. Imagine a big club purchases 10 players with bright futures for 3.5 million euros each. They then loaned them out to smaller clubs all over Europe. If only one or two of those young players reached their potential, they could sell those two players for enough to make up for the other duds. The top quality players are overvalued so greatly that even a slightly above average center-back like John Stones fetches 50 million on the transfer market, so the necessity for these clubs to hit home runs with every player it loans out is greatly diminished.
It is reminiscent of the blockbuster mentality large production companies use to turn a profit. They can invest heavily into four or five moves with the knowledge that if one is a big hit, then it recoups the losses if the others are box office flops.
Right now, Chelsea have 16 first-team players out on loan for the 2016/17 season across Europe. Those 16 players were acquired by Chelsea for around 50 million. If just two or three of those players live up to expectations with a good season at their loan club, Chelsea is in the black financially.
What about the other 14 players? They will go the way of Wellington Silva and vanish into relative obscurity. These soccer nomads will be loaned from club to club and pick up a lot of stamps on their passports in the process. This is why I believe that the ability of clubs to loan players is hurting the game of football as a whole. There are talented players that are hurting their careers by moving from club to club every year. Some players survive this gauntlet and become stars, but many more suffer from a lack of stability and fail.
This is why I propose a 10 player loan limit for each club. If a team wants to sign a player, but it does not have room for him, it has to let one of the current players go. This will lead to more top quality players on lower sides and promote equality within the leagues around the world.
Lucas Piazon may have been out of line when he discussed his own situation at Chelsea, but I do not think he was wrong in criticizing the way that big clubs treat their young players.