Loan system benefits the big EPL clubs
It is clear that something has gone wrong with the loan system.
What was intended to be an emergency loophole for struggling clubs and became a convenient way to offer a lower league "finishing school "for young players has ballooned into something far stranger.
It now seems to be more like livestock farming, a new revenue stream for clubs that hardly needed a new one.
At the start of last season, Manchester City had 82 players on their books, Chelsea had 75, while Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur had 74 each. Outside of the 25-man Premier League squads, many of these players represented the youth and development squads.
But many others were sent out on loan.
Chelsea currently have 26 players scattered around the world on deals that remove them from the wage bill while retaining their registrations, should they develop. Other major clubs too.
The benefits for the big clubs are obvious.
At a crucial stage of development, young players are given first team football that they wouldn't have at their parent club.
They are removed from the wage bill and, if they prosper, theoretically they will progress to the first team. Thibaut Courtois, who spent three years at Atletico Madrid, is a perfect example. But in most cases, the loanee never returns. It's simply a way to allow the stockpiling of young talent. Buy them in bulk, lend them in bulk and keep the minority who succeed.
Outside of the rarefied air of the Premier League, considerable damage is felt further down the food chain. The largest clubs can afford to industrially fish the backwaters of English football, throwing down their nets and dragging everything up, whether they need it or not.
Their revenues are now so spectacularly superior that they could sign every player and coach from a League Two side on long-term contracts and barely notice the impact on their wage bill.
Thus, the smaller clubs are hit with a double whammy.
Anyone showing the remotest sign of talent in the youth leagues is snapped up before they've even come close to playing a first team game, their exit hastened by the Elite Player Performance Plan that minimises compensation payments.
When those players fail to make the grade, as is the case for all but a tiny minority, their return down the divisions is slowed by the loan system.
Knowing that there is no risk, that their youngsters' wages are covered by the loaning club, they can keep farming them out until their long contracts expire, on the off chance that they come good.
Chelsea's Josh McEachran, who should surely have been relinquished years ago, is a prime example.
Don't expect him or players like him to feel much benefit from the scheme. There will be little hunger at the end of his journey.
McEachran and his ilk will already have earned considerable sums of money by the time they are released.
The prospect of joining a small club on a small wage will hold scant appeal. The question has to be asked: Does this do more harm or good to the national team?
If the Premier League wanted to tighten this up, there is only one way.
Financial limitations do not work, but squad limitations do.
With an existing 25-man limitation on squads, there is now an argument for an extension, either on development squads or on age ranges.
There is no reason why major clubs should be able to hold nearly 100 players on their books. There are no circumstances in which they would need them and their retention only harms the clubs beneath them.
The best solution would be to restrict clubs to a diminishing, but limited number of players from every year, a handful of starlets born, for example, in 1996, slightly fewer from 1997 and slightly fewer from 1998.
Squad places should be treated like scholarship places at Ivy League universities.
But don't expect anything to change soon.
Any alteration to Premier League rules requires a two-thirds majority vote of member clubs and, while league sources privately acknowledge concern at the situation, they also claim that there is very little desire for change.
Put simply, the big clubs are happy to stockpile and the smaller clubs are happy to borrow their unwanted resources.
This is modern football.
"What people don't see is that it's a massive development piece. I'll give you two examples: (Kevin) de Bruyne and (Romelu) Lukaku. They were both bought as strong potential future players. We knew they had enough pedigree... It didn't work out and the opportunity arose to sell them. Best for the club and best for the players."
- Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay (above) defending their loan deals
"What we're saying is if you're going to bring this player in, then why do you then want to loan him out if he's an elite player, which is what the (existing) law says? We want managers to think before they sign this player, they've got to be pretty sure they'll want him in the squad and they will want to play him."
- The chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke (above) on plans to curb non-EU in the EPL
TOP EPL CLUBS' LOAN RANGERS
Jamal Blackman, Middlesbrough
Nathaniel Chalobah, Burnley
Tomas Kalas, Cologne
Ryan Bertrand, Southampton
Kenneth Omeruo, Middlesbrough
Josh McEachran, Vitesse Arnhem
Marko Marin, Fiorentina
Gael Kakuta, Rayo Vallecano
Victor Moses, Stoke
Oriol Romeu, Stuttgart
Mario Pasalic, Elche
John Swift, Rotherham
Thorgan Hazard, B. Monchengladbach
Marco van Ginkel, Milan
Fernando Torres, Milan
Ulises Davila, Tenerife
Christian Atsu, Everton
Lucas Piazon, E. Frankfurt
Patrick Bamford, Middlesbrough
Wallace, Vitesse Arnhem
Cristian Cuevas, Universidad de Chile
Bertrand Traore, Vitesse Arnhem
Jhoao Rodriguez, Bastia
Stipe Perica, NAC Breda
Matej Delac, Arles-Avignon
Islam Feruz, Ofi Crete
Michael Keane, Burnley
Tom Cleverley, Aston Villa
Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace
Luis Nani, Sporting Lisbon
Angelo Henriquez, Dynamo Zagreb
Javier Hernandez, Real Madrid
Nick Powell, Leicester
Ellis Plummer, St Mirren
Jason Denayer, Celtic
Greg Leigh, Crewe
Albert Rusnak, Cambuur
Bruno Zuculini, Valencia
Marcos Lopes, Lille
Adam Drury, St Mirren
Godsway Donyoh, Falkenbergs FF
Devante Cole, Barnsley
Karim Rekik, PSV
Eirik Holmen Johansen, Sandefjord
Billy O'Brien, Hyde
Bismark Adjei-Boateng, Stromsgodset
Carl Jenkins, West Ham
Ryo Miyaichi, FC Twente
Kristoffer Olsson, Midtjylland
Wellington Silva, Almeria
Benik Afobe, MK Dons
Jon Toral, Brentford
Austin Lipman, Boreham Wood
Luis Alberto, Malaga
Rafael Paez, Bologna
Andre Wisdom, West Brom
Joao Teixeira, Brighton
Brad Smith, Swindon
Iago Aspas, Sevilla
Divock Origi, Lille
Jordan Ibe, Derby
Oussama Assaidi, Stoke
Sebastian Coates, Sunderland
Tiago Ilori, Bordeaux