With Premier League clubs on the lookout for players to help them adhere to domestic rules, Aiden Cusick picks out several stars who could prove viable options...
Before Premier League teams begin to re-construct their squads this summer, there’s a constraint to consider: despite 25 squad places up for grabs, the rule book insists that no more than 17 of them can go to overseas players. It's partly – although not exclusively – why Chelsea hastily ditched Fernando Torres, Marko Marin and Marco van Ginkel late in last summer’s window.
The remaining gaps must then be given to homegrown players, or left vacant (hi again, Chelsea), although it’s not always as straightforward as it sounds. To qualify as homegrown, a player must have been trained by a club in England or Wales for a period of three years between the ages of 15 and 21, so while England internationals Eric Dier and Owen Hargreaves don’t/didn’t count, Spaniards Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique would – a useful loophole in a market where young Englishmen carry a London pint-style premium.
With this in mind, FFT went digging and unearthed 11 of the best surprise homers that your club could sign...
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover)
No doubt a Pointless answer in waiting under the category ‘2014 World Cup winners’, German goalkeeper Zieler is in fact homegrown in England. The 26-year-old spent five seasons at Manchester United with only a brief spell at Northampton Town to show for it, but eventually found his groove back home with Hannover.
Where could he go? First-choice goalkeeper vacancies are few and far between in the Premier League but if Hugo Lloris was to leave Tottenham, and likewise Tim Krul at Newcastle, then Zieler may come under consideration. It's no mean feat getting into a Germany squad as a goalkeeper given Die Mannschaft's strength there.
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton)
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Rumours continue to swirl about the future of current prized asset Schneiderlin, who is a France international masquerading as a Brit. Having signed from Strasbourg as an 18-year-old and remained at St. Mary’s ever since, the combative midfielder, in the eyes of Premier League rulemakers, is as homegrown as, er, rhubarb.
Where could he go? Arsenal and Manchester United are the supposed front-runners, although neither are in urgent need of quota boosting. Tottenham tried and failed a year ago, and the midfielder has loftier ambitions this time around.
Tim Krul (Newcastle)
Krul has been Newcastle’s undisputed No.1 when fit for five years now, although it took the Dutchman a similar length of time to break into the side following his switch from ADO Den Haag a decade ago.
Where could he go? Spurs, if Lloris leaves. Southampton have also been linked, given the long-term injury suffered by Krul’s former Magpies team-mate Fraser Forster in March, while Manchester United could be tempted if Real Madrid have their wicked way with David de Gea.
Alex Song (Barcelona)
After seven years at Arsenal, Song’s career seemed to be taking an upward trajectory when he followed the frequently-trodden path from north London to Barcelona. Sadly, the Cameroonian was more Alexander Hleb than Thierry Henry at the Camp Nou and spent the last 8 months pretending to look busy while on loan at West Ham following a promising start to the campaign.
Where could he go? The Hammers are likely to go in an alternative direction, but Southampton are the latest club (alongside Liverpool and Manchester City) to be linked with Song, who could replace Morgan Schneiderlin at St. Mary’s.
Max Gradel (Saint-Etienne)
The Ivorian’s 17 goals couldn’t quite deliver a Champions League place for Saint-Etienne last term, and that might be the 27-year-old's cue to leave. If that’s the case then England is a likely destination for Gradel, who signed for Leicester as an 18-year-old before rising to the fore at Leeds United.
Where could he go? Everton, if Kevin Mirallas gets his reported wish to leave or a permanent deal for Aaron Lennon fails to materialise. Alternatively there's West Brom and Tony Pulis, who liked to deploy two out-and-out wingers during his time at Crystal Palace and is currently short of them at West Brom.