You may have noticed players being loaned to other teams as soccer fans. It’s not always clear precisely what soccer loans are, how they work, and why teams loan out players.
Also, sometimes it’s hard to know who pays a loan player’s wages or the difference between a transfer and a loan.
But don’t worry, we’ll outline everything for you here.
What is a loan in soccer?
A loan in soccer is an agreement between two teams where one team loans a player to the other. Let’s look at a high-profile example from the past.
In 2009, David Beckham was under contract with Major League Soccer team LA Galaxy. But during the off-season, he wanted to play competitive soccer with AC Milan in Serie A.
And LA Galaxy and AC Milan agreed. Beckham went on loan to the Italian team for the off-season.
So put, a loan in soccer is one team borrowing a player from another. Now that we know what a loan in soccer is let’s see how they work.
How do soccer loans work?
Soccer loans work when two teams agree to a loan contract for a player. One team will have the player under a permanent contract – this is called the parent team (or parent club).
And the other team will sign that player under a loan contract once an agreement is reached between the teams.
Once the loan is completed, the player will play for his new team until the loan contract ends.
There’s no fixed loan period.
Yes, there is no fixed amount of time that a player must stay on loan. With the previous example, it was 2 months. Sometimes it’s half a season. Other times it’s a full season or even two.
It all depends on the agreement that the teams come to. But that’s not all; sometimes teams end the loan before the agreed time.
This might be bad for the team that took the player on loan, but the parent team can recall a player if necessary.
Sometimes the parent team gets a lot of injuries during the season. They can recall a player on loan to bolster their squad if that happens.
Now that we know what a soccer loan is and how they work, you might ask why teams loan out players. Let’s find out.
Why do soccer teams loan players?
Soccer teams loan players for 4 main reasons: to keep players active, develop young players, deal with unhappy players, and reduce expenses.
1. Keep players active
Often, teams have players who are close to being in the game squad but aren’t quite there yet.
These players train with the team. But their chances of playing a game, even as a substitute, are virtually non-existent.
What should a coach do with these players?
A good solution is to send them out on loan.
As a soccer fan, you’ve likely heard of game fitness. This is when a player is fit and ready to play in a game. And it’s only possible to get game fitness by playing games.
Yes, training will only get a player so far when it comes to being ready for a game. They need minutes on the field playing in a competitive game.
So, to get a player game fit, sending them on loan is a good idea. That way, they’ll get minutes of game time under their belt.
Then, if the coach needs them in the future, they’re game fit and ready to help the team on the field.
2. Develop young players
OK, so the coach has a young player developing through the ranks. The player shows promise but needs some game time at the highest level.
There’s one problem, though. The coach doesn’t have space for the player on the team. That’s where a loan comes in.
The player can go out on loan to a team at the same level. For example, Chelsea might loan a young player to Leeds United.
Both teams play in the English Premier League, but the young player will likely have a better chance of getting game time with Leeds. And game time is super important for a player’s development. Training isn’t enough.
Think of it this way. Pilots can learn as much as they want on a simulator. But they’re going to have to fly a plane sometime.
It’s the same for young soccer players. They can train and train and train, but until they play competitive games at the desired level, they won’t get the experience needed for their development.
So, loans are great for players to get game time and experience for their development.
3. Deal with unhappy players
Soccer players want to play games. And when they don’t play, they can become unhappy. Having unhappy players around the team isn’t good for team morale.
Sometimes the unhappy player might be great. But for whatever reason, the player doesn’t fit into the team or suit the coach’s style of play.
A loan move can be just what everyone needs.
The player will likely get more game time, the coach has solved a problem, and team morale is no longer affected.
4. Reduce expenses
Soccer can be an expensive business. Just look at Barcelona letting Messi leave because their expenses were too high. Sometimes a team will loan out players to reduce expenses.
If a player isn’t playing games, but the team is paying the wages, it can make financial sense to loan that player out.
The parent team and loan team can agree on the player’s wages. And who exactly pays the wages for a loaned player? We’ll find out in the next section.
Who pays the wages of a loan player?
Whoever pays the wages of a loan player depends on the agreement the teams come to. The team that borrows the player isn’t forced to pay the wages.
There are three ways that wages are paid:
1. Sometimes the parent team pays the wages of the loan player.
This is great for the team borrowing the player. In this case, the parent team might want reassurance that the player will get a certain amount of game time.
Think of it as them paying for their player to get experience.
In another case, the parent team might want to eliminate the player. Remember the unhappy players in the previous section? Sometimes a team doesn’t mind paying to get rid of a player for a while.
2. Sometimes the borrowing team pays the wages.
This can happen if the loan player is fantastic. The borrowing team knows the player will help them win games, so they don’t mind paying the wages.
Also, the parent team knows the player will get game time because they’re that good. So, they don’t have to pay wages to ensure their player gets games.
3. Both teams pay the wages
The teams can agree and decide that splitting the wage bill suits them. Usually, both teams will pay half of the player’s wages.
But the payment can be pretty much split however the teams decide.
Difference between a transfer and a loan
In soccer, a transfer is a permanent deal while a loan is a temporary borrowing. A transfer in soccer happens when one team sells a player to the other.
So, that player’s contract is transferred from the selling team to the buying team. Once the transfer is complete, the player is under contract with the new team.
As we now know, a loan is different from a transfer. The parent team still has the loan player under contract. And to loan the player, they agree with another team, which is a temporary borrowing.
And there you have it, all you need to know about how loans work in soccer.
Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.