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The Storm on Stamford Bridge


Life President
May 29, 2005
When John Terry was jeered off the White Hart Lane turf by the Tottenham faithful, it marked what could become a tense and altogether uncomfortable climax to the season. As they pray for a similar fate to befall their title rivals next weekend, however, a far greater storm awaits on the horizon.

Next season welcomes Michel Platini’s brainchild, the 6+5 rule, designed to level the playing field of competitions made vastly disproportionate by an influx of costly, foreign imports over the last decade. To save clubs an almighty panic, it’ll be introduced incrementally and the 2010/11 season will be dictated by a 4+7 ruling.

The law dictates that, in a team’s starting eleven, a minimum of four players must either be eligible for the home nation of the club, or have spent three years at the club under the age of 21. The bench can be filled with a multitude of nationalities if they wish to, but the starting eleven must fit these guidelines. Players like James Milner will instantly see their value doubled as clubs scramble to meet the criteria, and no club will be hit harder than Chelsea.

Of the current crop regarded as first eleven, only the aforementioned John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley and Joe Cole would meet the criteria. Outside of those four, however, only Ross Turnbull and Dan Sturridge would be eligible to fill the void, significantly capping the strength of their squad. Without serious investment in home grown talent, a serious injury or suspension to John Terry would mean having to drop Petr Cech or Didier Drogba to accommodate for these changes... something I’m sure Carlo Ancelotti would agree isn’t in Chelsea’s best interests.

You can suddenly see why Sir Alex Ferguson is so willing to hold on to his auburn-golden oldie Paul Scholes and why Martin O’Neill has assembled a collection of English talent at Villa. While Chelsea will be scrambling to identify and capture these players, Villa and United can concern themselves with finding talent for talent’s sake.

Arsenal will qualify solely because of the time, effort and confidence employed into their fruitful youth development program. Although not English, players like Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy and Alexandre Song are eligible having spent their adolescence in Magical Arsene’s Wonder Emporium.

Ultimately, this is the price Chelsea will pay for “fast tracking” their success. They assembled a team of undoubted talent on an expansive budget, transferring established players from far and wide to appease Abramovich in his quest for success. Now, they’re left with an ageing squad of former icons with the many millions waiting to be used now needing to be spent on English players, whose value will be bloated beyond recognition with this ruling, just to be eligible.

Regardless of the results this weekend, Chelsea are still in pole position for the title this season. The prospect of beating Chelsea to effectively hand Manchester United the title would present the most bittersweet of dichotomies for Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool and Ferguson’s men still have to play a rampant Tottenham desperate for a fourth place finish.

Next season, however, could present a whole other quandary for Ancelotti.