Roberto Martinez has cast doubt on the Football Association’s scheme to reduce the number of non-European Union players in the Premier League. The Everton manager said that the best way for the FA chairman, Greg Dyke, to realise his ambition of building a stronger England side was to devote more resources to youth development, rather than halve the number on non-EU footballers, of whom 122 have played in the Premier League since 2009.
“I can see why it has been proposed because the Premier League is such a fantastic competition and so many footballers want to come here,” said Martinez, who is a supporter of Dyke’s proposal to allow Premier League B teams to compete in the lower divisions. “But I don’t think having quotas is the best way to develop young English footballers, which is something all clubs want to do. The best way to do that is to develop the game at Under-16 to Under-19 level.”
Martinez’s development of Everton takes a further step forward this evening with the start of their Europa League campaign at home to Wolfsburg. Much has been made of Liverpool’s return to the Champions League but European football strikes a deep chord on the other side of Stanley Park.
It is five years since Everton were last involved in European competition and their record abroad under David Moyes was remembered rather more for the pain of defeat than the thrill of victory. The loss of the Champions League qualifier to Villarreal in 2005 and the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of a Benfica side inspired by Angel Di Maria in 2009 linger more than the triumphs.
Nevertheless, despite a difficult group, featuring Wolfsburg, the fifth-best team in Germany last season, Lille, who finished third in France’s Ligue 1, and Krasnodar, who qualified by knocking out Real Sociedad, the Europa League is something that inspires Martinez.
Given how many managers enter the competition and then find themselves dragged down by it, that might come as a surprise. However, Everton, planning for a new stadium with the kind of corporate revenue streams Goodison Park will never be able to produce, are geared up for a sustained run in Europe.
“With the experienced players we have, we are ready to embrace European football,” said Martinez. “It is a challenge not to let our league position drop due to the competition but our goal is to be in Europe season after season. Our fans know we are not going to stand still and that applies to the stadium.
“When you achieve European football almost by accident then it can lead to a lack of planning. If you have a squad of 18 or 19 players, then I can guarantee you will find the Europa League has too many games,” he said. “Now, we have 25, with six young players who can help out at any time. The squad is ready.”
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