Chelsea have a Champions League conundrum lurking in wait for their next manager.
The London club, who want Frank Lampard to replace Maurizio Sarri, will return to Europe’s top competition next season but a transfer ban imposed by FIFA means they cannot make any new signings.
And while there will be plenty of talent returning to Chelsea from various loan spells this summer, many of these players will not meet the UEFA criteria for ‘home-grown’ players.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is one of Chelsea’s few ‘club-trained’ stars but is sidelined with injury
Frank Lampard will have his hands tied in terms of signings if he takes over as Chelsea boss
WHY ARE CHELSEA BANNED?
Chelsea are fighting a punishment imposed by world football’s governing body FIFA after being found guilty of offences in signing overseas players under the age of 16.
FIFA fined Chelsea £475,000 in February and issued a ban on registering any new players for the next two transfer windows.
Chelsea have since appealed to CAS but their case will not be heard until after the summer transfer window closes, meaning no new signings will arrive at Stamford Bridge before the start of next season.
This will leave Sarri’s successor to work with fewer than 25 senior players in the Champions League where restrictions are tighter than in the Premier League.
Eight of the 25-man squad for UEFA competitions – or a club’s ‘A-list’ – must classify as ‘home-grown’ and four of those eight must be ‘club-trained’.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino grumbled about the rules last season when he came to regret omitting Juan Foyth from the group stages to meet the quotas.
The restrictions will become even more pertinent next season when teams will be allowed to name 12 substitutes on the bench for European competitions.
Chelsea will have to balance the benefits of sending some young players on loan to develop with the need to fill their bench in the Champions League.
Christian Pulisic, signed in January from Borussia Dortmund, will classify as an Under-21 player
Sarri’s Chelsea successor will work with fewer than 25 senior players in the Champions League
CHELSEA’S CURRENT HOMEGROWN CROP
Homegrown qualified players who would have to be included on Chelsea’s UEFA A-list next season:
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (club-trained)
Andreas Christensen (club-trained)
Tammy Abraham (club-trained)
Fikayo Tomori (club-trained)
As it stands, the club only have six homegrown players, two short of the required amount.
Chelsea would have to top up their ‘A-list’ with homegrown players otherwise eligible for the ‘B-list’, leaving the new boss with at least two fewer spots in his squad.
Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek qualify as ‘club-trained’ players, although Loftus-Cheek is facing months out with a ruptured achilles tendon.
Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori would also count and Ross Barkley is ‘home-grown’ but not ‘club-trained’.
Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas, two senior players who helped fulfil the quota, have left Chelsea this year.
Victor Moses, who is a ‘home-grown’ player, is six months into an 18-month loan at Fenerbahce.
The situation may play in favour of Danny Drinkwater who was frozen out by Sarri and has not made a competitive appearance for more than a year.
With Eden Hazard sold to Real Madrid and the options unlikely to be taken to keep loan signings Gonzalo Higuain and Mateo Kovacic, the senior squad is also reduced in depth.
Alvaro Morata is also six months into an 18-month loan at Atletico Madrid.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is another home-grown star missing the start of the season through injury
Christian Pulisic, signed in January from Borussia Dortmund, is only 20 and will classify as an Under-21 player in the Premier League but will have to take a place in the senior squad for the Champions League because his youth training was abroad.
Young players such as Mason Mount, Ethan Ampadu, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi can be included on the UEFA ‘B-List’ – next season for players born on and after 1 January 1998 and have spent two uninterrupted seasons at their club – and will help relieve the pressure.
Like Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi will miss the start of the season after surgery on an achilles tendon.
The new Chelsea manager will be forced to consider some of the misfits cast aside by Sarri when the squad returns for pre-season in July.
Experienced options in midfield include Drinkwater, signed for £35million from Leicester in 2017, and Tiemoue Bakayoko, who arrived in the same summer for £40m from Monaco.
Bakayoko spent last season on loan at AC Milan and says he is expecting to return to London.
Chelsea are expected to make an official offer to Lampard to return as manager in coming days
Kurt Zouma, who has been on loan at Everton, is the obvious candidate to replace Cahill as cover in central defence.
Michy Batshuayi, who was on loan at Valencia and Crystal Palace last season, could be recalled to offer support up front for Olivier Giroud and Abraham.
Chelsea are fighting against the two-window transfer ban imposed by FIFA for recruitment offences involving players aged under 16.
An appeal has been lodged with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but there is no guarantee it will be heard before the transfer market closes in August.
Chelsea have not yet lodged any request for the punishment to be suspended until the legal process is complete.
They have identified Lampard of Derby as the man they would like to replace Sarri and the potential make-up of the squad will be part of talks.