The number of young Premier League loanees playing in the Championship has doubled since 2018/19.
Looking at the last five full Championship seasons — sourcing data from Transfermarkt and Opta — Squawka has found:
- The number of loans from Premier League to Championship clubs has increased by 36% from 2018/19 to 2022/23.
- The average age of loanees fell from 23.4 to 22.1.
- The number of under-23 loanees doubled in those five years.
- Players aged 22 or younger now make up almost three-quarters of all Premier League to Championship loans. It was previously just under half.
The picture is clear. Championship clubs are being used, willingly on their part, as finishing schools for Premier League talent.
So does it work? And which Premier League clubs are most skilled at playing the Championship loan market?
As many readers would expect, Chelsea top the pile. Between 2018/19 and 2022/23, they sent more loanees to the Championship than any other Premier League club.
Manchester City run Chelsea close in terms of using the Championship this way. Given the dominance of those two clubs in the FA Youth Cup in the late 2010s, this is no shock.
More surprising is the fact Brighton and Everton are in third and fourth place. Meanwhile Leeds were only in the Premier League for three seasons of the five Squawka studied, but they used the Championship loan system much more extensively than others.
Success is not measured in the number of players loaned out, though. Nowadays the majority of big clubs have specialised staff whose job is to oversee player development. Most will have a specific loan manager, too. These professionals want to showcase their club’s assets or develop their talents in the best way possible. The number of first-team minutes a loanee gets is key to both objectives. This makes it vital to find the perfect partner club in the Championship.
Again, Chelsea lead the way in averaging over 10,000 Championship minutes of loanee playing time across the five seasons studied.
When we average the minutes played per loan per player, Liverpool and Manchester United climb the rankings. A decent job in finding good minutes for their fewer loanees.
However, Arsenal and Everton in particular have struggled in terms of loanee playing time. For whatever reason, problems can arise in two areas, either with the players they are pitching to that level or the Championship clubs chosen to take on said players.
Much changes over five years, though. Liverpool’s loanee minutes have dropped away where Arsenal’s and Wolves’ have increased (Ryan Giles being a key contributor there).
Other intriguing questions emerge elsewhere in the division. Will Brighton’s fallow 2022/23 season become a blip or downward trend? Newcastle United have spent much time and money on improving their behind-the-scenes infrastructure, especially in the academy and analysis areas. Brighton were huge proponents of using the Championship for their prospects under former technical director Dan Ashworth. Will he employ the same strategy at St. James’ Park?
What happens after Premier League loanees return?
Broadly speaking, there are four outcomes for Championship loanees returning to Premier League clubs. They are played, sold, loaned again or released, the worst-case scenario for everyone concerned.
Nearly 200 Premier League loan moves were made to the Championship in the last five years. In only 18% of occasions was the player subsequently used by their parent club.
Despite at some stage being deemed good enough to play Championship football as a young player, 16% are eventually released by their parent clubs for nothing.
The most common outcome, in 42% cases, is a transfer. Some for big money, others for nominal or undisclosed amounts.
Within the last five years, many Premier League clubs have never had a Championship loanee come back to play for them in the top flight. Manchester City, for example. Most of these, though, are either newly promoted or yo-yo clubs that flit between the two tiers. Often in this case, loanees return to the clubs and play regularly in the Championship post-relegation.
In total, only 18% of Premier League loanees sent to the Championship come back and get an opportunity to play league football for their parent club’s first-team. Chelsea have again done relatively well in terms of first-team contributions from former Championship loanees. Even so, only 24% of the players they sent to the second tier returned to play for them. Such is life in a league where Premier League clubs spent over £2billion signing senior players in the 2023 summer transfer market.
On the flip side, although Leicester never saw first-team minutes out of Filip Benkovic, Admiral Muskwe or George Hirst, they earned £38m selling Harvey Barnes to Newcastle. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, meanwhile, is now a first-team fixture who could also generate a large transfer fee in either of the upcoming transfer windows, with Fulham linked.
But yet again, Chelsea set the standard. They send the most players to the Championship, get them the most experience, give them more first-team opportunities post-loan and, of course, make the most money by selling them. It is quite the impressive operation, built in Chelsea’s Abramovich era.
Next down the list, Brighton have done a near-perfect job in converting their assets into funds. Of all the U23 players they loaned to the Championship, the Seagulls haven’t had to release any.
The key sale in Brighton’s figures is Ben White’s transfer to Arsenal, a year after a very successful loan at Leeds United in the Championship. However, the likes of Leo Ostigard, Jayson Molumby, Reda Khadra, Matt Clarke, Ryan Longman and – although it doesn’t look great business in retrospect – Viktor Gyokeres have all made money for the South Coast club.
Many other clubs would surely like to hold this record. The £30m sale of former Championship loanee Folarin Balogun to Monaco marks a big improvement in Arsenal’s sales record. But up till this summer, the Gunners earned hardly any fees for their talents.
Most Premier League teams have an academy, some have B-team set-ups at the moment. But the costs involved in running an academy, especially a top tier Category 1 academy, are substantial. If a club is able to produce a number of players who can be sold for good money, this can justify and pay for the investment in the academy structure.
- Just under half of all Premier League clubs over the last five years have never had a Championship loanee come back to play for them in the top flight, including Manchester City.
- The most frequent outcome (42%) is that the returning U23 loanee is sold.
- Just under a fifth (18%) of U23 loanees coming back from the Championship play Premier League football for their parent club. Returning loanees are released 14% of the time.
- Chelsea send the most loanees to the Championship; these players average more league minutes than those of any other Premier League club; and the Blues earn the most money in post-loan sales.
- Brighton have made £73m selling players previously loaned to the Championship, managing to avoid releasing any of them for free in the last five years.
This article is part of a series on young Premier League loanees playing in the Championship. Next week, Squawka answers the question, what kind of impact do young Premier League loanees have on the Championship?