Recently, I was watching the Ajax vs. Utrecht game on Setanta and as I cast my eye over the Ajax team, I noticed that the commentators were raving about a particular Uruguayan prospect by the name of Luis Suarez. As a loyal viewer of ‘Eurogoals’ and a casual Ajax fan, I am no stranger to his work.
Plucked by Groningen in 2006 from Nacional for the sum of £500, 000 as an unproven 19 year old, he was then signed by Ajax, his current employers, for â‚¬7.5m the following season. He has averaged a goal every other game since, and looks like being the latest in a long line to be taken from the Eredivisie to one of the top European leagues.
This got me thinking. There have been countless occasions where a South American footballer has been signed by a ‘second-tier’ European league for relatively pennies, then sold off to one of the big leagues for a fortune. Just last January, Afonso Alves signed for £12m by Middlesborough from Heerenveen. Further back, you have talents like Ronaldo, who played for PSV before securing a big money move to Barcelona. There are hundreds more.
Yet, this is not restricted to the Dutch league alone. Recent high-profile examples are Pepe and Deco moving from Brazil to Spain, via Portugal and Marquez and Maicon moving to Monaco, then on to Barcelona and Inter respectively for big bucks. There are many more waiting in the wings. Lucho Gonzalez, Lisandro Lopez, and Angel di Maria could all be moving soon, and that’s just from Portugal alone.
This is how these types of clubs earn their money. By being the middleman, the Porto’s and Ajax’s of this world can take talent from South America and sell them off for a few years for a huge profit. In addition, they give their fans the opportunity to watch future stars parade their talent in front of them and thus, increase their own reputation. Sure, they’re never going to be regular world-beaters, but they can be a very profitable club, with a great reputation, until an alternative appears.
Sadly, this cannot be the case for teams in the SPL.
Due to Home Office restrictions, a player must have played in 75% of his country’s international matches within the past 12 months, or must be proven to be an exceptional talent. This prevents teams in the SPL from trying their luck on unproven South American talent, possibly the most lucrative market for players that exists.
This is unfair. Teams in the EPL do not need to deal with this problem as they have the finances to sign the already proven talent from the second tier. We do not, yet the government will not help us to expand in the only way that we possibly can. One need only look at the hypocrisy surrounding Jason Scotland’s attempts at getting a work permit to play for Dundee United several years ago. Or further back at the decision that cost Rangers the services of the fantastically prolific Mario Jardel.
The message is clear and concise. We will fall further behind unless this is changed, and changed soon.