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Beyond Brexit: Why young European talents won't be snapped up by British clubs

Arsenal's Hector Bellerin (left) and Manchester United's Paul Pogba (right) were brought into their respective clubs before they were 18. Credit: PA

If you cast your eyes around the increasingly cosmopolitan Premier League it will probably dawn on you quite quickly, given the number of European players who pull on an English club shirt every week, that Friday is not just a big deal for the country but for football, too.

Because Friday will also prove to be the last day of the transfer window as we know it.

Yes, of course, everything remains the same during the near year-long transition but for football that could mean a period of stockpiling young European football talent.

Why? Well, post Brexit proper, as the rules stand, they will be impossible to pick up because the world’s governing body FIFA outlaws poaching international players under the age of 18.

Europe’s best young prospects are readily available to English clubs now but that only applies for as long as we’re in the EU.

The two biggest powers in England, the FA and the Premier League, are approaching Britain’s European divorce in different ways; the league is wary, the governing body sees an opportunity.

With the Three Lions in mind, for some time the FA has been keen to stop European signings blocking the pathway for England’s best, so has been pushing for a minimum number of 12 ‘homegrown’ players in each 25 man squad. The current Premier League imposed quota is eight.

Former Arsenal player Cesc Fabregas joined Arsenal from Barcelona's U17 set-up. Credit: PA

Brexit will stop many foreign players earning that ‘homegrown’ status, just as Paul Pogba did at Manchester United and Hector Bellerin and Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal.

Three years in an academy will do it, but if a club can’t get hold of a player until after he’s turned 18, then for all intents and purposes time is up. Foreign born, ‘homegrown’ players are likely to become a rarity.

While the FA believes English football and the England team will benefit in the long run, the Premier League is looking elsewhere.

Gerard Pique joined Manchester United from Barcelona aged 17. Credit: PA

It predicts an outcome that pushes all player prices up, which inevitably favours the bigger, richer clubs.

A shrinking European pool will also make life more difficult for the top-flight in Scotland and clubs in England’s Championship.

Like everything Brexit, the reality will only show its hand as the brave new world plays out, but you can pretty much guarantee an unseemly race to hoover up Europe’s best teenage talent once the current season is done and dusted.