Is trading in teenagers the new solution to FFP problems?

By Tony Attwood

There are three clubs out of the five most fancied to win the Premier League who have to watch their financial footing.

Man City, as we all know, made utter asses of themselves by not only failing FFP first time around, but then refusing to accept it, refusing to do what PSG and the others did and accept their punishment and by whipping up a storm about the unfairness of their financial manipulations not working.

Liverpool didn’t have to complete the forms last year and so sailed on with their buying spree – funded of course by the sale of the vampire.  Whether there is any underlying stratagem we will find out later this year.

And Chelsea – the club whose owner is supposed to have persuaded Uefa to introduce FFP so that other ventures could not do what he had just done – they are trying to get within the rules.

Now if you read the columns of papers that look at this sort of thing, here is the stuff you might find.  Things like,  “Yet here we are on the verge of a new Premier League season for which the Londoners have spent less on new players than they have raised from flogging unwanted ones. How did this happen? Has anyone told Roman Abramovich?” – that five days ago from the Guardian.

So I thought I would take a look, and this is what I found.

Player in From Cost
Diego Costa Atletico Madrid £32.0m
Didier Drogba Galatasaray Free
Cesc Fabregas Barcelona £30.0m
Filipe Luis Atletico Madrid £20.0m
Mario Pasalic Hajduk Split Undisclosed
Total £82.0m

Now I know that I am useless at doing this sort of gathering together and adding up lark, so I took that from Sky Sports.  If someone is missing just tell me and blame them.

The Guardian is right to make the point that in his first full season the oily man spent £150m. In the second £139m.   So this ain’t bad by Chelsea standards

Now the flip side

Players Out To Fee
Patrick van Aanholt Sunderland Undisclosed
Demba Ba Besiktas £8.0m
Ashley Cole Roma Free
Samuel Eto’o Released
Henrique Hilario Released
Tomas Kalas Cologne Loan
Frank Lampard Released
David Luiz Paris SG £40.0m
Romelu Lukaku Everton £28.0m
Total £76m

I have cut out some of the loans and leavings by players who I didn’t actually know were there and who didn’t get a fee – but to be fair, Arsenal’s summer list is like that each year too.  Players who might have made it but didn’t move on.

So are Chelsea, if not in balance, at least roughly self-sufficient?

Possibly yes, but they have a hidden problem I think – and of course it is only my view.   In a poll in the Guardian today, readers are asked which team is going to win the Premier League.

When I last looked the voting was

  • Chelsea 40%
  • Arsenal 20%
  • Liverpool 13%
  • Man C 13%
  • Man U 8%
  • Tottenham 2%

That overwhelming expectation could be a strain.  Mourinho as we know is unrestrained – and indeed there is another article  Mourinho: Chelsea can dominate which adds to this point.  If they don’t make it from the off, there will be cries to buy more.

And in fact he is still buying.  At the current level the club is ok and will pass FFP, but there is a limit because of wage inflation.

We should also remember that Chelsea made a profit in 2008/09 – the season that was supposed to start their “always in profit” mode.  They were helped by Man C buying everyone who moved including Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Tal Ben Haim off their hands.

But since then they have fallen back into the old ways – and that reveals the strain.

Chelsea also have the eternal problem of their stadium. They seek to overcome its age by charging the highest prices in the Premier League for the “cheapest” seats for example, but because the press never pick up on this the feeling is no one seems to mind.  Goodness knows what their fans made of the league cup match last season when it cost them £10 to get into the Ems.

So they are, I think, looking elsewhere.   Looking to get to a stage in which they can show off their own Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Serge Gnabry or Hector Bellerin, Gideon Zelalem type figures either brought up through the ranks or lured in and matured from other clubs at an early age.

Frank Arnesen promised this but didn’t quite cut it at Chelsea.  So there is a new model – one that involves bringing in large numbers of kids, playing them a bit and flogging them on at a profit to unsuspecting lesser clubs.  Lukaku and De Bruyne are examples.  FFP could be bringing about factory farming.

As  a policy that doesn’t quite have the rough edges removed yet however.  Matic was sold to Benfica for £21m in 2011 and bought back for the same fee in 2014.  Difficult stuff this buying and selling.

Of course Arsenal bring in lots of young players too, and many of them don’t make it and get released.  At the moment we are looking at Bellerin, Zelalem, Gnabry, Hayden, Coquelin, Martinez and Miquel entering the fray.  That is seven emerging over two years, and Arsenal have around 30 academy players most of the time – so not a bad record.

Now I know that last set of figures is fairly inaccurate, because different players take different amounts of time to mature, and come in at different points and ages, but I am trying to make a general point – this is a hard process to get right – but if you have a mind to do it, an easy one to experiment with.  Buy the player, loan him back maybe, discard him if it doesn’t work.

Arsenal gets way under 50% success rate, but even so have become rather good at bringing through young players.  Many don’t get to the highest standards and move on of course, but quite a few do come through.  Just run that list again: Bellerin, Zelalem, Gnabry, Hayden, Coquelin, Martinez and Miquel.  Some will drift away, but even so it remains impressive.

I do have a feeling that behind Chelsea’s improved financials, there is a policy of going in for wholesale purchase and loan back of young players, in order to try and find someone who does come through, in turn in order to reduce their FFP problems.

Of course I might be wrong – but it is just a feeling.


44 Replies to “Is trading in teenagers the new solution to FFP problems?”

  1. Hi Tony. It was widely reported that the fee paid by PSG for David Luiz to be GBP50 million. Just want to ascertain this part. Anyway, looking at the FFP, it may only be successful for the initial few years, after which, the rich clubs will be able to overcome the FFP by having more sponsorships income!

  2. Personally I am far more concerned about the Man City business model, as shown with Lampard who, if I understand correctly, is being paid millions by a feeder club with an opaque bond to them, and still available for their use. I am not clever enough to grasp the financial details, but I’ll bet my farm it is another way of sneaking around FFP

  3. I’ve never been comfortable with us shipping sub 18 year olds into our academies & squads. These kids have mostly never left home before, cannot speak our language and are likely completely disoriented by the early experiences of our culture. However, they seem to do Ok, and we’ve benefited as well as any team in this respect, so what do I know!

  4. What about “undisclosed fees”? All of this counting up is irrelevant if there are undisclosed fees.

    Why are not all fees undisclosed?

    Why are not all fees forced to be disclosed?

    Question upon questions.

  5. para

    I think “undisclosed fees” means undisclosed to the public, but is submitted for legal accounting process.

  6. Tram,

    City are paying all of Lampard’s wages while he is on loan with us. He has to go somewhere for to keep match fit because NYCFC don’t start life as a football club until next March. It’s not a move to circumvent FFP – if we wanted to do that then it would’ve been far more lucrative for us if we’d simply signed him direct from Chelsea then sold him to New York City FC in 6 months time, banking a transfer fee in the process.

    Furthermore, the City Football Group model isn’t a fudge round FFP. I’m pretty sure it’s the brainchild of Ferran Soriano, our CEO, who I think proposed a similar project when he was working for Barcelona. It’s aims are to create a legacy for the clubs that have been acquired under the CFG umbrella, while at the same time raising the global profile of MCFC by having a representation in some of the world’s major cities. It’s an innovative idea that may or may not be successful.

    Seriously mate, when you think about it it’s a nonsense assumption to make – if City were looking for ways of dodging FFP they wouldn’t be going to such elaborate lengths as this. Besides, the New York Yankees also have a stake in New York City FC, and Nissan have a stake in the Japanese club we’re also involved with, so if City were buying stakes in these clubs purely to dodge FFP then it begs the question as to why world-renowned brands such as the Yankees and Nissan are involved.

  7. M18CTID

    How dare anyone suggest that City might possibly be looking for a way around FFP.

    They wouldn’t dream of it. 😆

  8. Jambug,

    How dare they indeed 😉

    I wasn’t suggesting with any categoric certainty that the club hasn’t looked into ways of circumventing the regs – there are plenty of creative accounting practices that could be useful on that score. I was just stating that this particular issue regarding having sister clubs in other countries isn’t a ploy to get round FFP. It’s more to do with global branding which should help raise City’s profile worldwide. People shouldn’t be so ready to don their tin foil hats and go into full-on paranoia mode whenever City announce something lol.

    As it happens mate, going forward I don’t think City have too much to worry about regarding FFP. It would’ve been far more of an issue if the regs had come in 2 or 3 years earlier than they did.

  9. Will,

    If you’re talking about Etihad then the answer is no. They’re not a related party by International Accounting Standards (IAS24) and UEFA didn’t pull the club up on this particular issue. Their issues with our accounts lay elsewhere – I think it was something to do with the sale of IP rights to third parties.

  10. M18CTID

    I know you are a passionate and knowledgeable defender of all things City, but excuse me for thinking that your owners do not spend a single penny without thinking about what is in it for them.

    And to that end I believe they pursue a vigilant and relentless path searching for loopholes, within loopholes, within loopholes.

    My wish, as forlorn as it may be, is they end up strangling themselves to death in one of them.

    Sorry, I know you love your Club but I detest everything about the way yourselves, Chelsea and all the other ‘oilers’ go about your business.

    You are entitled to delude yourself that somehow City are on this magnificent social crusade but as far as I’m concerned City are no more, no less, than a marketing tool.

  11. ” the New York Yankees also have a stake in New York City FC, and Nissan have a stake in the Japanese club we’re also involved with”

    First thing I can remember immediately after reading this
    “Time – Phrase

    02:23:33 Is it true you have a controlling interest in three major hotels in Las Vegas?

    02:23:39 No, it’s not true. I own some stock in some of the hotels there, but very little.

    02:23:47 I also have stock in IBM and IT&T.

    02:23:52 Do you have any control over gambling and narcotics in New York State?

    02:23:59 No, I do not.


    All is fair as long as there are no new rules preventing it.

  12. Jambug,

    That’s some revelation mate – I’d never have guessed you felt that way 😉 Look, I’m trying to keep my powder dry round here these days instead of reacting to every perceived slur on City with all the subtleness of a bull in a china shop, so I’m not getting into another pointless p*ssing contest with you about how City are ruining football and how Arsenal cheated their way into the first division all those years ago – I was merely explaining why I thought the notion about the CFG being a ploy to get round FFP is way off the mark.

    Your last sentence about City being some kind of marketing tool for ADUG is probably a quite accurate one in all honesty.

  13. M18CTID
    So are you saying that there is no way your fine upstanding owners would not take advantage of an opportunity to instruct NYCFC to purchase for example Falcao for £50 million and loan him to Man City so as to preserve their need to comply with FFP?
    And if they were to take such action would you deem it acceptable?

  14. Mick,

    Firstly, yes I’m saying there’s absolutely no way that they would go down that route.

    Secondly, I wouldn’t deem it acceptable but seeing as though I think there’s zero chance of it happening I don’t think I need to worry about losing sleep over it any time soon

    Thirdly, do you actually think it would be as simple as that or have you been swallowing what other people on the internet have suggested as a possibility?
    You need to really think this through – NYCFC are a bona fide football club located in arguably the world’s most famous city. I’m sure Don Garber and the MLS would object pretty strongly to such a scenario.

    Finally, why do people still think that City need to go to such lengths at this stage in the development of the club “to preserve their need to comply with FFP”? The days of losses exceeding what is allowable under FFP are pretty much a thing of the past.

  15. M18CTID

    You are entitled to your opinion as much as I am.

    But you chose to air yours on an Arsenal blog, in which case I’m afraid you are going to have to get used to being in a ‘pissing contest’, because as erudite and earnest in you beliefs as you may be, I think you are utterly deluded and in complete denial of what your Club has done, is doing, and will continue to due, as long as the powers that be fail to close all the ‘loopholes’ you are so willing to uncover and exploit.

    Rules and regulations are, as a general rule, put in place for the BENEFIT of the whole.

    Anyone who attempts to find and exploit ‘loopholes’ in these rules and regulations do so with the full knowledge that are trying to traverse these rules and regulations for the sole benefit of themselves and to the DETRIMENT of the whole.

    You seem to find no fault in this behaviour. I contest it is something you should in fact be ashamed of.

  16. OT: Building a team

    We all know how Wenger was involved in the building of the new stadium. The BBC is running a story about Richie McLoughlin and the Jarrow Roofing Boldon Community Association FC.

    > For McLoughlin is not just Jarrow Roofing’s manager, but also the club’s founder.

    > He is the chairman, too, as well as treasurer, main sponsor, groundsman, chief scout and general repairman.

    We have another personal story this morning. It seems a record is going to be set this weekend.

    > Romsey Town manager James Phillips is set to make FA Cup history on Saturday, with the 22-year-old believed to be the youngest-ever boss in the competition.

    Best of luck to both teams in those stories.

  17. Jambug,

    The day I become ashamed of what my club is doing because a faceless keyboard warrior such as yourself reckons I should feel like that is the day hell freezes over. Personally, I hope City continue to ruin football if it means upsetting nobodies such as yourself so much. It doesn’t matter one jot to me mate – I’ve only been following City since the money came in anyway.

    Now I suggest you wind your neck in and enjoy being FA Cup/Community Shield holders before your head explodes Scanners-style 😉

  18. M18CTID
    I admire your faith in your club and owners and your defence of their integrity and no I do not suppose it would be as simple as that but Arsene Wenger is obviously aware of and concerned about the possibility of the scenario I described, complicated or not and that is good enough for me.

  19. Mick,

    Believe me if such a scenario (NYCFC buying a marquee player for big money and loaning him to City) actually played out then I’ll be the first to hold my hands up. In fact, I’ll happily donate £20 to a charity of your choice if it does happen 😉

    Wenger’s not stupid – he’s just looking out for his and Arsenal’s best interests and what he said wasn’t too inflammatory, but he also knows that by commenting on this the press will pick up on it and sensationalise the story.

  20. M18CTID
    Fair do’s mate.
    Good luck for the season (especially against Spurs) but only in small quantities and definitely NOT when you play us.

  21. Mick,

    Likewise mate – and if we don’t win it, I’d sooner a Gooner title over any other club. I’m not sure I could cope with another 12 months of the press indulging in a mass Liverpool love-in.

  22. M18CTID

    I’ve called you:





    I’ve said:

    -I know you love your Club

    -you are entitled to your opinion

    The only negative I have said about YOU is that I think you are:


    -In denial

    On the other hand you have resorted to:

    -A faceless keyboard warrior such as yourself.

    -Nobodies such as yourself.

    -I should wind my neck in before it explodes.

    -I should keep taking the tablets.

    My gripe is with your Club not you. I don’t agree with you and argue my points. You should try doing the same without resorting to childish playground remarks.

  23. Jambug,

    Can you point me in the direction of where you’ve said I’m “Passionate, knowledgeable, erudite, and earnest”? Honestly, apart from your post above I’ve not been aware of you using any of those phrases to describe me. However, by calling me deluded and in denial that’s a definite personal attack and you can’t complain if I react in kind. You also said I should be ashamed of the club I support and when you resort to such hyperbole you really are treading on thin ice. Some of the “insults” I resorted to in return were deliberately chosen to inject a bit of humour (note the winky smileys before taking it too much to heart) into proceedings whereas the overriding feeling with your posts is that they’re filled with hate and bile – that’s not just when you’re addressing us City fans either. You show the same posting style with other opposition fans on here who dare disagree with your point of view.

  24. OT: Transfer Speak

    I see today, that a “sound offer” was made.

    A sound offer is one where a person opens and closes their mouth, with noise coming out.

  25. @M18CTID

    I don’t personally think the current transfer of Lampard is really an attempt to get by FFP regulations, or that City will be doing something so blatant as buying a star player using their feeder clubs and loaning him to their main team as that would be too obvious.

    If they do end up using it to avoid FFP I would guess that City’s feeder clubs will be buying emerging talent from the various countries they are in and then once they have proved themselves to be good players selling them to City for below market prices.

    Since City will avoid the expenditure of players that don’t make it and only pay a small amount for the ones that do, it would seem to be a fairly effective means of getting past FFP regulations.

  26. Gord,
    Would 40 million and a quid be a sound offer?
    My guess is no; it was submitted in writing.
    Using invisible ink.

  27. M18CTID

    2:17 PM Passionate, Knowledgeable.

    3:59 PM Erudite, Earnest.

    Perhaps it would help if you read the post before resorting to play ground rhetoric.

    How old are you?

  28. M18CTID

    The reason I ask how old you are is because you seem to change your story.

    In previous ‘debates’ you have gone to great lengths in an attempt to give gravitas to your views by proclaiming what an avid and loyal City fan you are, who has “travelled the length and breadth of the Country” following City from a child, well before the ‘oilers’ saved you from eternity in the shadow of your neighbours.

    Then yesterday at 4:20 you say

    – I’ve only been following City since the money came in anyway.

    It’s always difficult to debate with people who alter there story to suit.

  29. M18CTID

    “whereas the overriding feeling with your posts is that they’re filled with hate and bile – that’s not just when you’re addressing us City fans either. You show the same posting style with other opposition fans on here who dare disagree with your point of view”.

    As I have been off work for a couple of days I have a lot of posts on here currently.

    Back that statement up.

  30. Jambug,

    Fair enough, I asked you to show me and you did. However, if anything it was you that started with the “playground rhetoric”. My initial posts on this thread were non-confrontational and just an attempt to explain how owning clubs in different countries isn’t an attempt to fudge FFP. Predictably, as so often happens when the subject of FFP and City comes up, you couldn’t help but launch into yet another hate-filled tirade about all things City. I wouldn’t mind but I wasn’t even trying to claim the club are on some kind of moral crusade – for what it’s worth the club aren’t doing anything other than looking after their own interests (like every other football club). The ultimate goal is world domination and I wouldn’t bet against it happening either so you’d better just get used to the fact that City are going nowhere soon and are just going to keep growing year on year.

    I get that you hate City, but I also find it amusing that you were probably one of the many Arsenal fans that were desperate to see us pip a “proper” club like Liverpool to the title last season so you didn’t have to put up with a whole summer of the press fawning over how plucky little Liverpool (the club that has posted losses of £100 million over the past 2 seasons but that’s all fine and dandy as they lose money the right way whereas City lose money the wrong way) managed to beat that evil force from the other end of the East Lancs Road to the title.

    I can’t be arsed going through all your posts of the last 2 days (some of us notherners actually have work you know) and in any case I wasn’t referring to anything you’ve posted as recently as that but I’ve seen the way you abuse people on here in the past when you’ve not even been provoked. That doesn’t sit right with me and believe me, I’ve pulled some of our own fans up in the past for doing the same when opposition fans have posted on City forums and received a tirade of unwarranted abuse. As it happens, I actually think you’re quite an intelligent poster – I’ve noticed you made an excellent post on the historic analysis thread about the importance (or lack of) of results against title rivals when trying to win the league. It’s probably best, therefore, that if you and I are going to engage in any kind of debate on here that we do it on other topics because when it comes down to this one we invariably end up winding each other up.

    I’m 44 and this will be my 25th consecutive year as a City season-ticket holder. I thought you would’ve at least been smart enough to see the irony in my post but it appears to have gone straight over your head. Tut tut 😉

  31. M18CTID

    Your a bit of a bully arn’t you, you calling other people Key board warriors when you come on an Arsenal blogg and defend Manchester City to the hilt? Pot, kettle and black comes to mind, however defending city as you do, nothing wrong in that?
    But your sly digs at Arsenal and their supporters you come across as half intellegent and half thug?

    Incidently, your not in league with the other Manchester supporter who posted a Racist comment the other day? As your club supporters remained silent and didn’t condemn him.

  32. Super Singh,

    Actually, I think you’ll find I did condemn the racist comment. Perhaps you should look back and you’ll find it.

    As for me being a bully, perhaps you should take a look at the threads where I’ve come under attack from all angles before making such a ridiculous accusation. Give me strength ffs.

  33. M18CTID

    In fact I don’t hate City. I always had a soft spot for them and still have.

    I like your manager. I like a lot of your players. I like the style of football you play.

    But I hate the way city have got to where they have. I hate what all the oilers have done.

    It is nothing to do with you. But you defend it so it is you that I argue/debate with.

    As for my attitude to posters of other Clubs you are way out of order.

    You will not find any posts where I am abusive to fans of other Clubs.

    You may find me loosing my rag with ‘supposed’ Arsenal fans whom invade this pro Wenger site to do no more than slaughter him.

    I have no time for the likes of Rupert Cook and tell him so, if I can be bothered to even respond.

    And you will definitely see me being very very abusive to the media because I hate them with a passion and make no apologies for that.

    But again I challenge you to back up you scurrilous allegation that I abuse opposing fans.

    In conclusion, I do think that, as a rule, you are a decent poster who posts what he believes and not just to be provocative, it’s just that we are polar opposites when it comes to our views on the Clubs generically termed the ‘oilers’

  34. Jambug,

    Fair enough. I think that’s about as close as we’re going to get to agreeing on this – there is some common ground somewhere though not on this issue. I really haven’t got the time to go back through old articles to back up my point – I know that will probably sound like a cop out to you but I’m standing by it while you dispute it. I’m not talking about every time you’ve addressed opposition fans, just a couple of things I’ve picked up on previously but I’m buggered if I can remember which article(s) it was on.

    I wholeheartedly agree about the media by the way and have posted something on the other thread about non-attending season ticket holders to that effect.

  35. M18CTID

    One last point.

    Even if I did on the odd occasion get a bit ‘off’ with opposing fans (which I still refute) it is hardly cause for you to state the following:

    “…….the overriding feeling with your posts is that they’re filled with hate and bile – that’s not just when you’re addressing us City fans either.”

  36. Jambug,

    Yep, perhaps I over-egged it a little. I think we’re getting into hair-splitting territory though and we could be here all day if we go down that route.

  37. I would suggest that this is perhaps the strangest, selective or ill researched article that Tony has ever published
    Why you may ask ? Well here we go

    The argument has always been on here that a club should survive on the money it generates itself. Indeed a major reason that Arsenal have been able to declare the proits it has over the last few years has been through player trading yet when Chelsea operate a model that doe just that then foul is cried.

    Next you talk about Chelsea`s profit in 2008/9 made because the likes of SWP were sold and how this led to some sort of claim about profit mode. The problem was that Chelsea made a loss in 2008/9 indeed the first year that a profit was made under Abromvich was 2011/12.

    Next you talk about the tickets at the Arsenal v Chelsea Capital Cup game last season being £10. Yes some were, but mine cost £20.

    Next you say Matic was sold to Benefica by Chelsea for £21 million. He wasn’t his fee was considered to be less than £5 million and was part of the deal that saw David Luiz move the other way.

    Next you say that Chelsea charge the highest prices in the Premier League for the “cheapest” seats . Not true at all. The cheapest non concession tickets for all league games is £23.50 in the Matthew Harding Lower. Granted these tickets don’t afford the very best view but none the less they are our cheapest tickets.

    Finally all clubs release players that aren’t going to make the grade and yes I note that you acknowledge that applies to Arsenal but how many players did Arsenal either release or grant free transfers to in 2013/14 10, 15, 20? Nope I see it was reported as being 25

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