It took six seasons, but Brexit finally reached the Premier League.
Following the UK’s official departure from the European Union on January 1, 2021, the changes in transfer strategies that many have been waiting for have finally come about.
The result is a substantial shift in Premier League investment and, for the first time in a decade, the elevation of English players to the ranks of the most important in Europe.
Just look at the biggest offers from the transfer window.
Three of the five most profitable deals featured Englishmen.
Manchester City spent $ 140million on Jack Grealish, Manchester United took Jadon Sancho for $ 100million and Ben White was at Arsenal for $ 60million.
With Danny Ings picked up by Aston Villa for $ 42million and Tammy Abraham in Rome for $ 50million, as it stands, half of the top ten transfers this summer involved England players.
You have to go back to 2011, when Liverpool bought Jordan Henderson and Manchester United signed Ashley Young and Phil Jones, to find a period when England stars traded at this level. But, even then, none of these deals was the biggest.
Of course, that could change in the next few days, Real Madrid recently turned down a $ 200million offer for Kylian Mbappe, but many Englishmen are unlikely to be moved from the roster by the time the window closes. .
Already over half a billion dollars have been spent on the British this summer in total, which is a clear indication that habits have changed.
The consequences of this shift from Premier League sides to home talent is bad news for other European leagues.
The Premier League billions
For over a decade, the Premier League has dominated the global transfer market and consistently spends more money than any other league by far.
The imbalance is now so pronounced that only a handful of top European clubs can fund a deal that a mid-sized Premier League club can afford.
This inequality may seem negative for clubs outside of the richest league in the world, but it also has its advantages.
Football finances are poor globally, and with ever-rising wage inflation driving costs up continuously, it is increasingly difficult to run a club sustainably.
For teams on modest budgets who sell a star player to an English club, or even who generate interest in the Premier League, can get a transfer fee that balances the books.
Few places are as true as in France.
In 2019, Ligue 1 even rebranded itself as the “League of Talents”, perhaps a nod to the superstars brought together by Paris Saint-Germain, but it was also a recognition of the consistency to which it produced. the players of the future.
From Sadio Mane and Fabinho of Liverpool to Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City or Ngolo Kante of Chelsea, France have an exceptional record of developing the best players in the Premier League.
So it’s no surprise that English clubs like to shop there.
There have been few destinations more popular than Lille, and since 2016 the club have made $ 207 million selling players to the Premier League.
This has been a vital source of income for a club whose finances have been complicated.
But Lille, which has significant debts and was given a transfer ban by the league’s financial watchdog in 2018, won the title last year with a squad built on profits from player sales.
This summer, with Ligue 1 in increasingly dire financial straits, it sold Boubakary Soumare to Leicester City for $ 24million.
But they might not be able to count on that Premier League money any longer.
“European car park” for English clubs
For Premier League teams, the European Union’s freedom of movement laws were a great tool for recruiting players.
They allowed them to suck up talent from across the continent and, if they had an EU passport, not to worry about the security issues of the right to work.
But now the points-based immigration system introduced by the UK government after Brexit has forced players to demand Approval of the Board of Directors (GBE).
This is granted by an independent board of directors which considers criteria ranging from the number of international appearances to the quality of the sales club.
For a team like Lille, that means exceptional deals like the $ 100million Arsenal won for Nicolas Pepe will always be made. But regular transfers of $ 15 million, like Brighton paid for Yves Bissouma or Southhampton for Soufane Boufal, can be less straightforward.
University of Liverpool football finance expert Kieran Maguire believes English clubs’ habits have already changed.
“Small clubs, like Crystal Palace, they would have sought to recruit in Europe and now it is becoming more difficult for them,” he told me.
“They have to go through this extra set of hoops in terms of government-imposed post-Brexit restrictions.”
A solution to this regulatory conundrum could worsen the disparity between the Premier League and the rest of Europe, removing the selling club altogether.
Now, rather than buying the players directly, England teams are looking to acquire an entire club abroad for talent parking and are waiting for it to acquire the relevant GBE criteria.
“There was talk of Leeds United [owner] Radrizzani buying a club in Italy ”, continues Maguire.
“The owner of Brighton also has a club in Belgium and uses it as a kind of parking lot where, if [they] can’t bring a player to the UK, he’ll go to Belgium in the hope of getting the points that will allow them to come.
“I think this is a model that the clubs are watching.”
Lille hopes that not too many people will adopt it and it still has a market to exploit.