English football’s new transfer battle as lines drawn amid Brexit fall-out

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Ajani Burchall's first-team debut lasted three minutes.

The starlet was introduced into professional football shortly before the end of Bournemouth's five-goal thumping of Huddersfield last month.

At just 16 years and 38 days old, the winger was the third-youngest player ever to appear for the Cherries – one-to-watch then, clearly.

It wasn't a huge gamble for Bournemouth chief Jason Tindall to blood him with those three points in the bag against the Terriers – the result was never in danger.

But, looking at the bigger picture, Burchall's brief dalliance with first-team football highlights a trend that is set to continue as professional football gets to grips with life after Brexit.

The new rules say no player under 18 can be signed from overseas. Any who wants a green card now has to reach to specific points target – awarded mainly on the quality of the selling club, its league and first-team appearances they've made.

Ajani Burchall of Bournemouth makes his professional debut age 16
(Image: AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images)

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Clubs are already trying to get ahead of the curve.

It was revealed this week that Chelsea have taken a stake in a junior club on the doorstep of Newcastle United.

Aston Villa are converting a huge site used for matchday car-parking near Villa Park. They are turning it into an indoor dome where they can trawl Birmingham and hoover up the best within an hour's drive. That's a 50-mile radius.

The cities of Leicester, Wolverhampton, Derby are all within reach.

Jason Tindall is leading Bournemouth's fight to keep their youngest stars
(Image: AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images)

These are two initiatives.

Plato wrote that necessity is the mother of invention – and those with the deepest pockets and most to gain have put their thinking caps on.

That means the biggest and most well-resourced – no change there – are now in a bear-pit fighting for the brightest domestic talent.

Speaking to one senior academy figure this week, he said that there are now a couple of options open to the elite.

The first is simply to identify a talented youngster, slap some cash on the table and take their chances.

“Manchester United have already lodged a seven-figure bid for one of my 14-year-olds,” he said, “they walked straight through the front door and placed an offer on the table.”

Similarly, Liverpool recently splashed £500k on Birmingham's 15-year-old Calum Scanlon.

Worryingly for the smaller clubs – who cannot afford to turn down such fees – is that this will be just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Calum Scanlon signs for Liverpool from Birmingham City
(Image: Instagram/calumscanlon)

Brentford did away with their Academy a number of years ago
(Image: Getty Images)

It has also long been a source of frustration among those less well off that the compensation for players developed in academies – cherry-picked by the monied – do not bring in adequate recompense.

That the Elite Player Performance Plan has long been criticised for failing to do anything other than allow category one clubs to gobble up the best.

In fact, a popular quote attributed to Huddersfield Town four years ago when their academy moved down the rankings was that Manchester City had more scouts in the area than they did.

And so to young master Burchall. Why is he important?

Well, even though the Premier League clubs are flexing their financial muscles, the rest of the game aren't going to take the situation lying down.

If clubs like Bournemouth can prove that the likes of Burchall are good enough to play first-team football at such a young age, they can demand more money for them if they are enticed away and any dispute goes to arbitration.

It's called getting your retaliation in first.

The battle for Brexit may be over. But in English football, it seems the story has only just begun.

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