Over the past few years there has been the trend to poach young, talented players from foreign clubs, where a loophole exists that allows Premier League clubs to sign talented players from Italy, Spain and France before they reach 18 years old on free transfers. This is a trend that the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool have exploited, bagging themselves some of Europe’s top talent in the process.
Here are ten foreigners that began their careers in overseas youth teams, but were poached by Premiership clubs before they were eighteen. Some players arrived on free transfers, some cost quite a lot of compensation. Here they are, in no particular order:
Kakuta is probably the most infamous youngster poached by the Premier League. The youngster was snapped by from Lens by Chelsea, but the French side complained that Kakuta was illegally “tapped up” by the London club, resulting in a hefty transfer ban for Chelsea. The ban has since been overturned and Kakuta has shown what all the fuss is about, after coming on at Wolves earlier this season. Lightning quick and with an abundance of skill and trickery, Kakuta is going to be a star for Chelsea in a few years time.
Manchester United struck a deal to sign the Nigerian midfielder just as he was turning eighteen, to sign him from Norwegian club Lyn Oslo. Confusion followed, as Mikel had also agreed to sign for Chelsea. Mikel eventually joined Chelsea for £16 million, with £12 million going to United and the remainder going to Lyn Oslo. Aggressive, strong on the ball and always up for a challenge, Mikel has established himself in the Chelsea first team in the last few years.
Signed along with his brother Fabio for United in 2007 from Fluminese, but as they were both 17 at the time they were unable to play in England until they reached eighteen. Lightning quick and a player who loves getting forward, Rafael is going to be world class in the future.
Arsenal signed Song as a 17 year old in 2005 from Bastia, initially on loan and then on a permanent deal for £1 million. This season, Song has been in impressive form for Arsenal and is maturing into an excellent defensive midfielder at the heart of their midfield.
Signed by Lazio as a 16 year old, Macheda made an instant impact on his first team debut last season, scoring the winning goals against Aston Villa and Sunderland. It’s a policy that will pay dividends in the future, as fellow Italian Davide Petrucci was also signed from Roma because of the loophole that exists in Italian football.
Poached from Liverpool in 2007 from Barcelona, Pacheco is a striker that can score goals from anywhere and was nicknamed El Asasino (The Killer) at the Nou Camp. Now 19, Pacheco has made a few substitute appearances for Liverpool this season and is definitely one to look out for in the future.
Vela signed for Arsenal from Mexican side Guadalajara for £2.5 million in 2005, as a 16 year old. Loaned out to Celta Vigo, Salamanca and Osasuna in his first few seasons at Arsenal, before receiving a work permit for Arsenal in 2008. Arsene Wenger sees Vela as a player in the Eduardo mould, who can create chances for teammates as well as score himself.
Signed as an 18 year old from Boca Juniors’ youth team, Insua has managed to establish himself in the Liverpool first team this season, playing in 29 Premiership games and providing 4 assists for this team. The Argentine full back loves to get forward, but needs to work on his all round game, particularly his tackling, heading and positional sense if he wants to remain a regular fixture in the Liverpool side.
The only player on this list who is yet to make a Premiership appearance, Wellington Silva is on here purely on potential. The 17 year old has signed for Arsenal but cannot play in England until he is eighteen. The Fluminense striking sensation is tipped to be world class, but it is unsure how long he will stay in Brazil and when he will join the Gunners. There is no doubt that if he was eighteen now he would have cost a lot more than Arsenal paid for him.
The best and most accomplished player on this list and if you can poach players like Fabregas from foreign clubs then it is no wonder why it has become a popular tool for English clubs. Signed from Barcelona as a 16 year old, Fabregas has gone on to establish himself as a world class midfielder and a key player for Arsenal and Spain.
Any glaring omissions?
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