Football: Taylor warns on foreign players

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INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL as we know it is under serious threat, according to Gordon Taylor. The Professional Footballers' Association chief executive is worried that the vast armies of footballers now plying their trade on foreign soil will soon prompt countries to adopt players for their national teams as well.

The post-Bosman Premiership has become flooded with players from overseas. Chelsea's signing of Didier Deschamps this week took to 172 the number of foreign players with Premiership clubs. When the Premiership was launched in 1992, there were 11 foreign players registered.

Taylor said: "If the process continues I can even see a situation where international club football will take over from national football, which is a worry.

"There will probably be attempts to have national teams made up of players who have been playing in that country for a number of years. That is almost what is happening in the cricket world.

"It's already a serious worry for England, Italy, Spain and Germany. The countries with the greatest influx of foreign players are the countries who didn't make the final stages of the World Cup last year.

"It's quite ironic that France, who spent millions on youth development and saw the fruits of success in the World Cup, are now finding all their best players playing abroad.

"We want to make sure there are enough opportunities for our own talent otherwise there's a danger that these lads might look to other sports or even other professions if they don't see daylight."

The Football Association is bound by post-Bosman European law. The only restrictions in place are that no club can play more than three players from countries outside the European Union.

Taylor said: "I would love to see a rule where half a club's starting line-up have to be from the United Kingdom but could you hold up such a ruling in the face of lawyers and politicians?"

David Pleat, Tottenham's director of football, shares Taylor's concerns about the future of the English game.

"I think it is imperative - and exaggerated and illustrated so clearly by the French performance at Wembley against England - that we continue to look harder to develop and coach better the young talent in this country," Pleat said.

"If we are taking younger talent from other countries then, for sure, opportunities to English younger players will be denied."