Leeds United’s summer transfer business was relatively smart, adding Illan Meslier and Helder Costa on permanent deals as well as the international pedigree of Robin Koch, Rodrigo Moreno and Diego Llorente.
While Llorente’s persistent absences mean Leeds are yet to see the best of the Spanish international, the vast majority of the other additions, including Brazilian Raphinha, have taken to life at Thorp Arch well.
It is now a much more diverse dressing room at Leeds than when Marcelo Bielsa first arrived, but equally a more talented one too.
Following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, a new points-based work permit system complicates incoming foreign transfers.
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Players from Scandinavia will no longer be able to be signed as readily or as easily, unless they are regular internationals, along with players in lesser European leagues.
Interestingly, due to a Common Travel Agreement (CTA) which predated the United Kingdom’s EU membership, the UK and Ireland will enjoy a very much unchanged relationship when it comes to football transfers. With the added benefit of Ireland being in the EU, clubs could explore the option of partnering with teams over the Irish Sea in order to circumvent work permit rules.
Everton have wasted no time in partnering with Sligo Rovers in the League of Ireland. This allows Everton to purchase players who may not qualify for a work permit initially, much like Percy Tau at Brighton & Hove Albion, send them to Sligo to feature regularly in a league which allows them to gain enough points, before then bringing them to Goodison Park.
It also ensures that Everton’s standing in Ireland is magnified, and that Sligo can seamlessly provide the best players in Ireland with the pathway to a Premier League club.
Manchester City have done something similar with their umbrella network of clubs under the City Football Group. Their latest acquisition is of Club Bolivar in Bolivia, much further afield than the League of Ireland to say the least.
The reason for doing so is that under the new work permit rules, players in South America earn the same number of points for featuring regularly in the Copa Libertadores, as they would in Europe’s premium continental club competition: the Champions League.
This also applies to the U20 Libertadores, equivalent to the UEFA Youth League. Previously, acquiring a work permit for a non-EU player from South America with little or no international experience was nigh-on impossible without being referred to a workplace panel.
Under the new system, City can purchase South American players, before sending them to Bolivar where they can be guaranteed enough minutes to qualify for a work permit to play in England.
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Andrea Radrizzani has entertained the idea of doing something similar with a club in Europe, and had loosely expressed an interest in acquiring a stake in Valencia.
There appears to be no immediate movement on that front, or at the very least, very slow movement. Now, with the UK’s status change, there is no time like the present, as evidenced by City and Everton’s moves within two weeks of having left the EU.