Every season, there has been a decline in the number of English players in the Premier League. Big spenders like Manchester City and in the past, Chelsea have assembled huge squads by utilizing their limitless assets – cash-strapped owners. The consequences of these have been the increasing difference in quality between ‘the best’ and ‘the rest’ as the weaker teams have smaller squads and lesser quality players to contend with. Also, the national team has suffered due to lack of quality players coming through the ranks. The Football Association has tried to solve the problem by introducing the twenty-five player rule for all the clubs.

The new rule means that top clubs will have to release the players who could not be incorporated in their twenty-five man squad, or pay them for sitting on the bench. This will also mean that clubs are financially stable and do not get into trouble due to overspending.  Though, on the whole, the squad cap is certainly beneficial for the Premier League, the homegrown rule has its own drawbacks.

A homegrown player does not necessarily have to be of English nationality, but only has to be registered with the English or the Welsh FA for three seasons or thirty-six months prior to his 21st birthday. This qualifies the likes of Cesc Fabregas and John O’ Shea as homegrown players. Italian wonder-kid Federico Macheda and the Da Silva twins would also qualify to be as home grown for Manchester United when they turn twenty-one. So, on one hand, this rule will encourage clubs to invest in youth systems across the country but, on the other hand, it will also enable them to poach young foreign talents like Gael Kakuta and Paul Pogba  – purchases of whom, have landed the clubs in trouble in the past.

Jul 24, 2010 - Paris, France - SOCCER 2010 - Europe Championships France vs. Angleterre. Gael Kakuta (France. Clubs might poach more young talent like Kakuta from abroad

Only time will tell whether the new rule will bring out the desired results, but one thing is for sure that the club managers will have their work cut-out in framing their squads. Sir Alex and Harry Redknapp have already spoken about the prospects of having to leave the likes of Owen Hargreaves and Jonathan Woodgate out of their respective squads. However, with the luxury of naming unlimited U-21 players, the task for the managers might not be as difficult as it seems.

Here is TheHardTackle’s look at what it means to England’s top clubs…


The Blues are struggling to find eight homegrown players to fit in the squad. As it stands, Chelsea have only five players above the age of 21 who qualify to be as homegrown. This means that Carlo Ancelotti will have to work with a reduced 22-man squad should he fail to sign another homegrown player before the window closes.

Homegrown players: Ross Turnbull, John Terry, Michael Mancienne, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard
Foreign players: Petr Cech, Henrique Hilario, Jose Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho, Alex, Paulo Ferreira, Branislav Ivanovic, Yuri Zhirkov, Yossi Benayoun, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Nemanja Matic, John Mikel Obi, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou.

Ramires is expected to sign for Chelsea next week which would round off the seventeen foreign players that can be registered. So, Ancelotti would have to release a foreign player if he intends to sign another one after Ramires.


Sir Alex is one manager who has always had four to five ‘homegrown’ players in his line-ups, considering his youth policy and his willingness to sign English players. So, probably of all the managers, he is the least troubled by the new rule. The only worry for him is to restrict his squad to twenty-five players.

Homegrown players: Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, John O’ Shea, Wes Brown, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Darren Gibson, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen.
Foreign players: Edwin Van Der Sar, Tomasz Kuszczak, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Ritchie De Laet, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Owen Hargreaves, Anderson, Park Ji-Sung, Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov

Sir Alex can only add one player of any nationality to his squad before the transfer window closes, or else, he has to leave someone out from the above list. Apart from the above players, United manager can name any number of U-21 players. Ben Amos, Rafael, Fabio, Macheda, Smalling, Tom Cleverly and Welbeck are few of those who are certain to feature in that category.

Spain's Pepe Reina (L) embraces team-mate Cesc Fabregas as they celebrate their World Cup 2010 victory on a stage in Madrid, July 12, 2010. Spain stunned the Netherlands to win their first World Cup on Sunday in sensational fashion with a goal in the last minutes of extra time. REUTERS/Juan Medina (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)
Catalan or not – Fabregas is a ‘homegrown’ Gunner!


Arsene Wenger is one manager who has publicly criticized the new rule but nonetheless he still has to work his way to have a squad abiding to the new rules. The rules certainly seem to favour Arsenal in terms of home grown players as they have quite a few players who will be eligible to play as homegrown players when they turn twenty-one. However, the twenty-five man cap might force Wenger to sell some of his promising players in the years to come.

Homegrown players: Vito Mannone, Gael Clichy, Johan Djourou, Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, Denilson and  Nicolas Bendtner. Jay Simpson is also a contracted home grown player, but he is expected to leave the Emirates.
Foreign players: Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie, Manuel Almunia, Abou Diaby, Andrey Arshavin, Emmanuel Eboue, Marouane Chamakh

Wenger, according to the rule, can still sign five more players for the upcoming season. However, he has several U-21 players at his disposal such as Walcott, Vela, Traore, Gibbs and Wilshere who have had enough experience in the top flight. It could very well be possible that Arsenal have the least number of players in the twenty-five man squad but at the same time they have the most U-21 players playing in the league.


Roberto Mancini has already spent big this summer with a combined fee of seventy-five million pounds paid to acquire David Silva, Yaya Toure, Jerome Boateng and Aleksandar Kolarov. With James Milner and Mario Balotelli set to join them, he is one manager who has to really cut down on his squad to meet the rule. The ones who are most likely to be sold or released are David Gonzalez, Javier Garrido, Kelvin Etuhu, Felipe Caicedo and Jo. Robinho has already expressed his desire to stay at Santos, while Stephen Ireland is rumoured to be used as a part-exchange for Milner.

Roberto Mancini Manager Manchester City 2009/10 Manchester City V Tottenham Hotspur (0-1) 05/05/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom Mancini has a lot to think about!

Homegrown players: Joe Hart, Stuart Taylor, Wayne Bridge, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, Adam Johnson, Nedum Onuoha, Michael Johnson and Shaun Wright Phillips. James Milner will also be registered as homegrown if he joins the club.
Foreign players: Shay Given, Jerome Boateng, Aleksander Kolarov, Shaleum Logan, Vincent Kompany, Kolo Toure, Paolo Zabaleta, Nigel De Jong, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tevez.

So, City could only afford to register one more player. If they have to register any more than that then they have to release one of the players apart from those already mentioned above. Mario Balotelli’s signing will not pose a problem for Mancini as he is under the age of 21.


The Reds are another club struggling to find eight home grown players. Joe Cole’s signing has certainly helped their cause but Roy Hodgson still has only four home grown players which could feature regularly in Liverpool’s line-up. Jay Spearing and Stephen Darby are eligible to be homegrown, but they are not expected to find a regular place in the eighteen man matchday squad.

Aug. 06, 2010 - 06282577 date 05 08 2010 Copyright imago BPI Joe Cole of Liverpool Thanks The supporters AT The End of The Game PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxFRAxNEDxESPxSWExPOLxCHNxJPN Football men UEFA Europe League Europe League EC 3 Qualification 2010 2011 Liverpool Single Action shot cut out Vdig xkg 2010 vertical premiumd Football.Cole is a welcome ‘Homegrown’ addition to Liverpool’s squad

Homegrown players: Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Jay Spearing and Stephen Darby.
Foreign players: Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Fabio Aurelio, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, Lucas, Alberto Aquilani, Milan Jovanovic, Fernando Torres, Diego Cavalieri, Maxi Rodriquez, Nabil El-zhar, Javier Mascherano and Damien Plessis

So, the new manager can sign two more homegrown players and one more foreign player before window closes. But with Javier Mascherano set to leave the club, Hodgson could very well sign two foreigners. If two more homegrown players are not signed, then Liverpool, like Chelsea, would have to operate with a reduced squad.


Harry Redknapp’s Champions League debutants were expected to sign few players ahead of the new season to gear up for the Champions League, but till date he has signed none. The homegrown quota is not a trouble for the manager, but he has to keep an eye on the 25 player cap.

Homegrown players: Ben Alnwick, Ledley King, Michael Dawson, Jonathon Woodgate, Kyle Naughton, David Bentley, Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon, Jamie O’ Hara, Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe.
Foreign players: Carlo Cudicinni, Gomes, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Sebastien Bassong, Vedran Corluka, Alan Hutton, Younes Kaboul, Niko Kranjcar, Luka Modric, Wilson Palacios, Robbie Keane, and Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Jonathan Woodgate Tottenham Hotspur 2008/09 Manchester United V Tottenham Hotspur (5-2) 25/04/09 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports InternationalWill Jonathan Woodgate play in EPL this season?

Contrary to his earlier comments, Redknapp can afford to sign one player of any nationality and still register Jonathon Woodgate in his 25 man squad.

Therefore, the clubs and managers might not have a problem in the current season but surely, they have to think and plan out their future transfer activities in accordance with the changing rules or else they could find themselves battling with a weaker squad in terms of quality as well as quantity.

11 Responses to “FA’s Player-Cap Rule: What’s In Store For England’s Elite?”

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  1. Good weblog. English football definitely needs more homegrown players for the national cause.

  2. Nitin Goel says:

    Chelsea have confirmed the sale of Carvalho to Real Madrid. As it stands, they can sign 2 foreigners, out of those one is set to be Ramires.

  3. Raja Manepalli says:

    Anderson was signed from Porto when he was 18. So will he be considered homegrown as he has finished 3 seasons with united or does the player have to finish 3 seasons b4 21. The internet (wiki) lists his b’day as 13th April. That means he might have just missed the cut off date by a couple of months. Any clarity on this part?

  4. Fred The Red says:

    yes Ando wont be considered as home grown :( and amazingly so not even Hargreaves who plays for the 3 Lions national team.

  5. Anurag says:

    Liverpool has Pacheco and Kelly who are better than Plesis and Elzhar. Both Pacheco and Kelly are academy products and I think they should easily qualify for the home grown quota.

    Kelly would be used as backup for Jhonson while Pacheco as a Striker/RWM would support Kyut.

  6. haha says:

    @ Anurag: u should get in terms of the rule first before writing the comment :>( ….Kelly and Pacheo are U21 players and are not required to be named in the squad. I believe the author has made that point clear as well..

  7. freelancer says:

    That’s great. Btw, I’m from Birmingham and support ManU. Anyway, I’m gonna back before too long.

  8. Nitin Goel says:

    Manchester United have signed Bebe which does not make any effects to their squad as he is only a 20 yr old. Whereas Poulsen’s signing means that Liverpool cannot sign anymore above 21 foreigners unless they sell anybody (Though Poulsen’s signing indicates that Mascherano will be sold).

  9. Sam says:


    You are right if Liverpool decides to include both El Zhar & Plessis as part of the 25 man squad. The former might be included if he does not leave (he stated a desire to play more first-team football and so might leave) while the latter has not been given a squad number for the coming season yet.

    If Liverpool manages to some foreign superstar (not likely given Pool’s financial status), any manager would not think twice to drop either of the two to make way for this superstar.

    Conclusion – Liverpool can still sign above 21 foreigners who are better then El Zhar or Plessis :)