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Anorak | Import Duty

Import Duty

by | 4th, February 2005

‘ARTIFICIAL quotas have always sat uneasily in the world of professional sport, which after all is all about the pursuit of excellence.

Does Shaun Wright-Phillips count as two or one?

But Uefa’s new proposals to require all clubs playing in European competitions to field eight “home-grown” players in a squad of 25 by 2008 could hardly be described as draconian.

As the Telegraph points out, only five of the 32 clubs in last season’s Champions’ League would have breached the rule.

However, as four of those five are British – Arsenal, Chelsea, Rangers and Celtic – stories of footballing Armageddon are already starting to abound.

Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein warned that “there will be a great danger that clubs will bring younger-aged players, and their families, to the country so they have three years to make them ‘home-grown’ players”.

Be that as it may, one does wonder why Uefa has suddenly felt the need to act on a problem that doesn’t really seem to exist.

The horse that is the issue of the number of foreign players in certain club sides bolted long ago, and it’s hard to see why Uefa is so keen to shut the stable door now.

Perhaps it is the fear of Roman Abramovich’s millions – although it should be pointed out that Chelsea’s two best players (by their manager’s admission) are both home-grown.

No Uefa rule is likely to stop Premiership sides queuing up to sign Luis Figo, who (according to the Independent) is on his way to these shores in the summer.

The 32-year-old Portuguese midfielder has asked Real Madrid to release him at the end of the season if they are not prepared to offer him an extension to his contract.

“England has always been a dream,” he said, “because of the respect they have for the professionals over there and for the prestige associated with playing there.”

In other words, they pay stupid wages over there.

The argument is that foreign imports prevent domestic players from developing and getting experience, but two who have will be included in England’s squad for next week’s friendly against Holland at Villa Park.

However, the Telegraph says Middlesbrough’s Stewart Downing is likely to miss out in the starting XI in favour of Shaun Wright-Phillips, who will play on the left so David Beckham can continue on the right.

The England captain, who appears to be increasingly losing touch with reality, dismissed criticism of his recent performances.

“As long as I am happy with my form for Real Madrid and England,” he said, “then it does not really matter what anyone else says.”

Well, apart from his respective managers, team-mates and, yes, even fans…’



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