Manchester United Head of Academy Nick Cox has spoken to the BBC about the impact of Brexit on the club’s youth recruitment.
From 2021, all players arriving in England from abroad must be aged 18 or over, and their entry will be decided via a points-based system.
Currently, English clubs can sign players aged 16 and above which has allowed United to sign the likes of Paul Pogba and Hannibal Mejbri earlier in their careers.
Cox claims that means English clubs will be at a disadvantage compared to their European rivals.
“We wish there was a level playing field but there won’t be,” said Cox of the new regulations post-Brexit. “It probably puts us at a disadvantage to other European clubs.”
“There will be movement of players between clubs in other European countries but they won’t be able to move to our club at the age of 16, as they currently can.”
“We absolutely will continue to recruit the best talent that is available to us. We do not want to break the rules but there will be a number of strategies we believe we can execute within the rules.
“We have had a long time to plan and prepare for 31 December. We feel we are in a good place and know where we are going given the limitations and restrictions Brexit will ultimately bring.”
Manchester City are mentioned in the article, and it is suggested they could use ‘City Football Group’ clubs Girona, Lommel SK and Troyes AC – in Spain, Belgium and France – to get around the rules.
United currently don’t have that arrangement with any feeder clubs in Europe, but they have been working to prepare for Brexit in their own way – with a huge youth recruitment drive in recent years.
In the summer of 2020, United signed Radek Vitek from Sigma Olomouc, Isak Hansen-Aaroen from Tromso, Marc Jurado from Barcelona, Alvaro Fernandez from Real Madrid, Alejandro Garnacho from Atletico Madrid, and Willy Kambwala from Sochaux.
2019 saw United snap up Mejbri from Monaco as well as Dillon Hoogewerf from Ajax, Mateo Mejia from Real Zaragoza, Bjorn Hardley from NAC Breda, and Johan Guadagno from IF Brommapojkarna.
That takes the pressure off United to snap up Europe’s best young talent at an early stage and the club have prepared impressively for 31 December.
The new regulations will likely mean a greater focus on domestic talent. Joe Hugill was signed from Sunderland in the summer and he’s already flying, with nine goals in 12 games thus far.
As Cox says, United and other English clubs have got a raw deal now. But smart youth recruitment work over the past two years means the new rules shouldn’t have a huge immediate impact at Old Trafford anyway.
Manchester United’s academy signings in 2020
- Radek Vitek
Goalkeeper (Sigma Olomouc)
- Logan Pye
- Joe Hugill
- Isak Hansen-Aaroen
- Marc Jurado
- Alvaro Carreras
Left-back (Real Madrid)
- Alejandro Garnacho
Striker (Atletico Madrid)
- Charlie McNeill
Striker (Manchester City)
- Willy Kambwala
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