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11 surprisingly homegrown players who could help Premier League clubs beat the 13-foreigner quota

Serge Gnabry Bayern Munich

News this week suggested that the FA will plough on with plans to cut squad imports regardless of Brexit, but that doesn’t necessarily make non-British internationals off-limits. Huw Davies on the magic men...  

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There’s a dirty rumour going around that Premier League clubs may have to reduce the maximum number of overseas players in their 25-man squads from 17 to 13.

Actually, it’s more than a rumour – the FA have made this request to the Premier League, who have replied, “Who are you again?” If such a restriction is introduced, British players’ hefty transfer fees would soar higher still.

But it’s not just Brits who’d be in demand. We mustn’t forget those pearls on the seabed: foreign players who meet the Premier League’s criteria for a squad member to be designated ‘homegrown’. The criteria is less nebulous than we’re led to think: a Premier League homegrown player is anyone who was registered to an English or Welsh club for three full seasons or a total of 36 months before their 21st birthday, or by the end of the season in which they turned 21 (which seems to render that first part redundant, but never mind).

As a result, several foreign footballers count as homegrown – most famously, Cesc Fabregas. Here are 11 more: some unexpectedly eligible, others simply forgotten, all with a bargaining chip that could prove useful in the next few years.

Suso (Milan)

Suso homegrown

Since he left Liverpool, it’s been nothing but good news for Suso, or Jesus Joaquin Fernandez Saenz de la Torre to his mates (they’re a formal bunch). The winger was at Anfield between the ages of 16 and 21 but rarely looked anything special, until he showed his ability upon being signed by Milan and loaned to Genoa, where he became only the second Spaniard in history to hit a Serie A hat-trick, after Luis ‘not that one’ Suarez.

Now, Suso is flourishing in Italy and making Spain squads. He’d still be considered a homegrown player in England, as would Fabio Borini, his former Liverpool and current Milan team-mate – although the queue for his signature is quite a bit shorter.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Paul Pogba homegrown

Pogba seems an unlikely homegrown player, having joined Manchester United at 16 and left them at 19, but those three years are enough to tick the Premier League’s box.

Of course, if any Premier League club does want to buy the Frenchman, it’s unlikely that his status as a homegrown player is at the forefront of their thinking. “Hmm, our squad has room for one more… all right, put in a bid for the boy Pogba.”

That said, if Pep Guardiola’s assertion is true and Pogba’s agent really did offer him to Manchester City in January, then Mino Raiola would have been better off trying Chelsea instead, seeing as they bought Ross Barkley that month. Maybe Maurizio Sarri could talk Jose Mourinho into a Pogba/Drinkwater swap deal...

Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)

Romelu Lukaku homegrown

That’s right: Pogba and Lukaku both qualify as homegrown players. This must be why Manchester United had to pay £180 million for the pair of them – it’s the British premium.

Lukaku was pretty well established when Chelsea bought him in 2011, being two games away from a century of appearances for Anderlecht and already into double figures for Belgium caps. Nonetheless he was only 18, and playing three seasons in England before his 21st birthday – two of them on loan at West Brom and Everton – mean he’s technically homegrown, albeit by stretching the rules to breaking point: Lukaku turned 21 two days after his third Premier League season ended.

Oguzhan Ozyakup (Besiktas)

Oguzhan Ozyakup homegrown

The former Arsenal midfielder is tearing it up in Turkey and has previously been linked with a return to the Premier League in the form of Everton (although most recently it was then-Championship Cardiff launching an ambitious – and unsuccessful – attempt to nab him last season).

We say ‘return’ – Ozyakup never played a minute in the top flight during his four years in north London (although to be fair, he was only 19 when he departed for Besiktas). The future Turkey international did get on the pitch for half an hour across two League Cup ties, but his only involvement in the Premier League was as an unused substitute, sat alongside Gilles Sunu, Ignasi Miquel and Henri Lansbury, watching Arsenal lose 8-2 at Old Trafford. No wonder he left.

Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield)

Aaron Mooy homegrown

In recent years, Manchester City have signed a few players from their City Football Group stablemates in Australia and America, including a 21-year-old Jack Harrison, a 19-year-old Daniel Arzani and, for reasons best known to themselves, a 27-year-old Mix Diskerud in a transfer that was officially announced by Umbro, having been brokered between an Adidas club and a Nike one. Football!

City signed Mooy, as they would Diskerud, with no intent of playing him – but after joining Huddersfield on loan and then permanently, the Aussie has become central to everything the Terriers do. And there’s a bonus. Having spent a few years in Bolton’s academy (before a spell in Scotland with St Mirren), the midfielder unexpectedly has domestic status.

It’s an extra help to Huddersfield, who use all 17 slots available for overseas players without naming Mooy or Danish midfielder Philip Billing, who also qualifies as homegrown – although you suspect that if necessary, Mooy would be given a place ahead of Jon Gorenc Stankovic.

Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton)

Gylfi Sigurdsson homegrown

Everton fill only 10 of their 17 allotted overseas slots (the show-offs) and that includes the less-than-exotic Seamus Coleman. They don’t really need Gylfi ‘Thor could be my middle name and in actual fact it is’ Sigurdsson to play his homegrown card.

Nonetheless, the Icelander came through Reading’s academy and there’s probably a tax break in it for the Toffees somewhere.