Liverpool 1978 European Cup

What If English Clubs Could Only Field Three Foreigners In Europe?

Our columnist Stan Collymore sparked a debate last night on whether English clubs should revert back to a core of British and Irish players.

It came after both Manchester clubs suffered disappointing results in their opening Champions League group matches.

Stan argued that the likes of Nottingham Forest conquered Europe without a reliance on overseas talent and that English clubs should look to reverting back to this model.
It is arguable that UEFA’s abolition of the “3+2 rule”, which allowed clubs to field three non-nationals and two assimilated players (defined as those who had played in the country in question for five years uninterruptedly, including three years in junior teams) was the precursor to the influx of foreign players into the English game.

So, how would English sides look if they reverted back to this rule? We have a look.

Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson was one of those to welcome the abolition of the rule in the 90s, stating that United “would have had a chance of winning the European Cup in 1994” without it. He often had to drop vital players in Europe, but today’s side would have even more problems.

We’ve included David de Gea, Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay as the three non-nationals, mainly due to the paucity of homegrown alternatives in their positions. With no established players qualifying for assimilation, it leaves no place for the likes of Daley Blind, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ander Herrera.

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Manchester City
The reintroduction of the rule would be disastrous for Manchester City, who’ve seen numerous English players leave the club in recent years due to lack of opportunities.

Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure get the nod as the three non-nationals and, again, City have no current players eligible under assimilation rules.

That would mean the club would have to try and conquer Europe with a back four made up entirely of development squad youngsters Ashley Smith Brown, Ellis Plummer, Cameron Humphreys and Sam Tattum. Alternatively, if Vincent Kompany were preferred to Yaya Toure, another young midfielder such as James Hardy would have to be plucked from the development squad.

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Petr Cech and Alexis Sanchez are shoo-ins for two of the three spots, leaving Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker to battle for the final spot in central defence.

On-loan Carl Jenkinson could be recalled from West Ham, while Welshman Aaron Ramsey qualifies under assimilation rules. However, a side missing the likes of Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud would surely struggle in Europe.

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It’s difficult to choose who to leave out of Chelsea’s regular first team due to the lack of homegrown options available to them. Perhaps Eden Hazard and Diego Costa would be definite starters, joined by Cesar Azpilicueta at left-back.

On-loan Patrick Bamford, Victor Moses and Todd Kane could be recalled to beef up the indigenous contingent, while a case could possibly be argued for Cesc Fabregas qualifying for an assimilated place due to his time as a youngster at Arsenal.

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In stark contrast, were European Champions Barcelona to adhere to the “3+2” rule, they’d have no problem fielding a strong side.

Lionel Messi would qualify under assimilation rules, while Neymar and Luis Suarez would surely grab two of the three non-nationals spots. Due to the lack of homegrown goalkeeping option, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen would probably claim the final spot. However, despite missing the likes of Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitić, they could still field a first XI that could be confident of European glory.

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