Ah, the ever-divisive loan market. A transfer device older than the professional game itself that has predictably been taken full advantage of for the financial benefit of some of the richest clubs in the world.
The majority of clubs use it innocently to bring in players on a budget, while some others use it to circumvent financial fair play rules. And then you get those who take the biscuit and loan players out as if it’s a competitive sport, with no view to a first team pathway and a sole focus on selling them on for a profit.
Here, we’re shining a spotlight on those biscuit-thieves and highlighting the seven clubs who have sent the most players out on loan over the last ten years.
*We’re only counting players loaned out to clubs in Europe’s top five leagues, because otherwise this becomes too much of a mess to calculate*
7. SSC Napoli (41 players)
Ranking as seventh only because ‘N’ comes after ‘M’ on the alphabet, it should come as no surprise that Napoli, who have 21 players out on loan at present, are old heads at this game.
They infamously offloaded Duvan Zapata to Sampdoria in one of those ominous ‘loan with an obligation to buy’ deals back in 2017, only for the Colombian to immediately establish himself as one of Serie A’s top marksmen and leave them with egg on their face.
6. Manchester City (41 players)
You might have expected to see City rank a bit higher on the list given they have something of a reputation for the dramatically-tagged ‘player-farming’, but the reality is that there are (far) bigger offenders since the 2009-10 season.
Still, over the years, City have done their fair share of the old ‘signing highly-rated players and loaning them out for three straight seasons before selling them on for a substantial profit’. Douglas Luiz, Pablo Maffeo, Jason Denayer and all that.
5. AS Roma (43 players)
Roma took advantage of the loan market to lure in Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan among others in the summer, but are no strangers to moving players out on a temporary basis either.
Luca Pellegrini earned himself a move to Juventus off the back of a successful loan spell to Cagliari, while former Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons, having failed to break into the first team in Roma, has been shunted out to Granada in La Liga.
4. Juventus (51 players)
The Italian champions can more or less do what they want when it comes to…well, anything, such is the gravitational pull of the club since they’ve rebuilt themselves into the undisputed top dogs of Serie A.
They currently have seven million players in their first team squad, but have toned down the loaning out under Maurizio Sarri, with just the two out on loan compared to 13 last season. Gonzalo Higuain was a victim of a couple of loan spells away with AC Milan and Chelsea last season, while Rogerio, who was signed from Sassuolo three years ago and spent his entire career on loan at Sassuolo, has just been sold to *checks notes* Sassuolo.
Italy is a strange place. Let’s move on.
3. Inter (53 players)
As you’ve probably gathered by now, the loan market in Italy is more than a little bonkers. They deal in loans more frequently than they do in actual transfers and Inter, more than almost anyone else, are big fans of it.
They of course have Mauro Icardi on loan at PSG at present, in a deal that is less about the player finding his form again and more about him just…not being at Inter. That’s the most high-profile one, but there have been a lot more. 52 more, as far as Europe’s big leagues go, to be precise.
2. Chelsea (57 players)
Up until very recently, when a registration ban essentially forced them into dipping into their ‘loan army’ to fill out their depleted squad, Chelsea had an aggressive agenda against every single player they ever loaned out.
Or that’s how it seemed, at least, back in the heady days of six months ago when they’d rather have loaned in Higuain than given Tammy Abraham a chance.
It might be changed days with the likes of Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori playing starring first team roles after spells in the Championship, but the North doesn’t forget with Chelsea, who continue to loan out a scandalous amount of players (27) – albeit some of them might actually fancy their chances of making the cut under Frank Lampard.
1. Udinese (62 players)
The big bad guys of the loan market, Udinese love sending someone out on loan. Especially to Watford, in fact; they famously sent five at once to the English club back in 2012. It was, of course, entirely coincidental that they had the same owners.
They’ve taken their fair share of players in the other direction, in fact, having a look at Ben Wilmot at the tail end of last season, and enjoy a similar relationship with Granada – to whom they have sent as many as 20 players over the last ten years. For context, that’s 11 more than have moved between any two clubs over that time.
Also owned by the Pozzo family, Granada. Funny, that.