Jose Mourinho did not hold back on Tottenham Hotspur’s foreign player problems and also the issues within the club’s academy.
Tottenham have had to deal with the quirk that exists within the differences between how the Premier League and UEFA decide what a homegrown or ‘locally trained’ player is.
The key difference lies in the issue that UEFA only recognises the football association of the league itself that the player plays in and that player must have played for a club within that association for at least 36 months or three full seasons before they turned 21.
That means that for Spurs, England international Eric Dier, who spent his formative years in Portugal, and Ben Davies, Joe Rodon and Matt Doherty do not quality as homegrown in UEFA’s eyes as they did not fulfil that criteria as young players.
In Doherty’s case, he joined Wolves from Irish side Bohemians just weeks after the 2010/11 season had already begun – meaning it was not three full seasons – and was already roughly 18 years and seven months old when his signing was completed.
While Davies and Rodon played at Swansea, who come under the Welsh FA, their fellow Welshman Gareth Bale is considered homegrown in UEFA’s eyes because he was on Southampton’s books since he was a child.
It was a problem under Mauricio Pochettino and Doherty’s arrival has added to the issue in the Europa League squad under Mourinho, meaning Mourinho had to leave Paulo Gazzaniga and Gedson Fernandes, who is on the U21 list in the Premier League, out of his European squad.
Rodon was signed after the registration deadline but someone will still have to be removed for the young Welsh defender if he is to be added for the knockout stages.
The situation has hampered any Tottenham hopes of signing foreign players in this window, unless they just decided to add to the problems in the squad.
Mourinho told football.london that it was difficult enough to deal with when it came to his current squad, let alone thinking about how it impacted transfers.
“I’m not even thinking of repercussions in relation to the transfer window, but the reality is that it was not easy to leave Gazzaniga out, but no other option,” he said on Friday.
“Would be great for Joe Rodon’s development to play in the Europa League. We’ve played already nine matches in the Europa League and if Joe was available to play these nine matches he would have for sure have played in three, four, five or six of them and would help of course in his development and adaptation.
“So it’s not an easy situation. Then how can you have more English players?
“English players from other clubs, they want to keep them, because normally all of them they have the same kind of problems or potentially they have the same kind of problems.
“So it’s not easy, it’s not an easy situation and clearly it’s not a situation that you can resolve in one season. It’s not possible.”
Mourinho also pointed to the club’s academy as a potential source of English players but bemoaned what he saw as a gulf in quality in the older groups, although it is not believed he was referring to loan players currently unavailable to him, such as Oliver Skipp, Ryan Sessegnon, Harvey White, Jack Clarke and Troy Parrott.
“You have to basically try to help the academy, but at the same time you depend on their work, you depend on generation, you depend on talent,” he said.
“And, honestly, I don’t know if I should say it or not, the players that I feel are more talented in the academy are not the eldest ones.
“They are very young. We are speaking about kids of 16-year-old, we are not speaking about 18 or 19, let’s say men that just need the last push. I feel that the biggest talents are very, very young.
“Of course we have to help in their development in collaboration with the academy but we have to wait a little bit more.”
When it comes to talented 16-year-olds, Mourinho is clearly speaking about Dane Scarlett and Alfie Devine.
Both of the teenagers have made their debuts already under the Portuguese this season, Scarlett in the Europa League and Devine in the FA Cup, after impressing the head coach in pre-season.
Scarlett, a prolific striker with 20 goals in 14 games for the U18s and U23s this season, became the youngest ever player to appear for Spurs in a competitive match when he came off the bench and almost scored against Ludogorets in November.
Devine, a midfielder signed from Wigan last summer, then broke Scarlett’s record in the FA Cup third round tie at Marine this month and then went one better by also becoming the club’s youngest ever goalscorer with a clinical second half strike.
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Scarlett and Devine do not turn 17 until March and August respectively and Mourinho is correct when he says “we have to wait a little bit more” for the duo, even with the sky high hopes for both within the academy.
The Spurs boss will have other returning homegrown players to turn to next summer though including Skipp, who Mourinho admitted to football.london that he wanted to recall this month from a terrific season at Championship table-toppers Norwich, where has been earning widespread praise.
There is also Sessegnon, who has been getting plenty of game time in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim, while the talented Parrott continues to develop at Millwall in a loan that has taught him plenty about battling.
The foreign player issue is a problem that Spurs have wrestled with for far too long and this summer it needs to be properly addressed with departures.