With the departures of Peter Crouch, Harry Kewell and Danny Guthrie – along with the potential sales of Steve Finnan and Jermaine Pennant – Rafa Benitez is left with a problem when it comes to registering players for next season’s Champions League.
Uefa implemented a ruling in 2006 regarding locally trained players that required clubs to register 2 club trained and 2 domestic association trained players each squad, that was increased to 3 of each last season and this season it becomes four players – meaning Liverpool will only be able to register 17 international players.
Last season Benitez registered young defender Stephen Darby, along with Gerrard and Carragher as the three club trained players. The domestic association trained players (eg. can be trained at another club from within England) were Harry Kewell, Steve Finnan, Jermain Pennant, David Martin and Peter Crouch. Two of those (Crouch and Kewell) have already left, and another two are likely to leave (Finnan and Pennant). Leaving Liverpool three players short of their four domestic trained players and one short of club trained players.
To qualify, a player must have trained at the club for three years between the age of 15 and 21, regardless of nationality. Therefore, the likes of Lucas and Babel are not eligible to fill the quota as they arrived at the club too late to have three years before the age of 21. This season at least, Benitez is left with somewhat of a headache.
This problem could explain why Benitez’s top targets this summer have emerged as Gareth Barry and Robbie Keane – both players would be classed as domestically trained – leaving Liverpool just one short of their four for that part of the quota. That could also explain the links with Stewart Downing, James Milner et al. It would also go someway to explaining why buying domestic players is proving so expensive too.
Furthermore, it may explain why Liverpool are signing a large amount of 17 year olds, who will qualify as club trained by being at the club for three years before the age of 21. Once the likes of Dani Pacheco, Kristzian Nemeth, Damien Plessis and Emiliano Insua, become eligible to qualify as club trained, Liverpool’s situation will be much stronger.