Spanish Government set to drop age law for pro-contracts

cesc fabregasBy Gareth Messenger
April 26 – Spanish government officials are looking changing the law which states that a footballer has to turn 18 before his club offers him a professional contract.

The law change would bring the Spanish into line with a number of other countries and would protect clubs' financial investment in the development of youth players. Spanish clubs have suffered a drain of some of their best young talent to foreign clubs.

In England, for example, footballers receive professional contracts at the age of 16 which has helped them sign many Spanish youngsters in the past.

One example is former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas (pictured) who left Barcelona for London in 2003 at the age of 16. At the time, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell expressed the club's displeasure over the transfer, calling it "legal but a little immoral".

Barcelona complained to FIFA about the departure of one of their most exciting talents, but were unsuccessful in stopping the move despite Arsenal paying a £700,000 fee in compensation.

Another player to depart the Camp Nou in recent years is Jon Miquel Toral Harper in 2011. The then-16 year old was free to sign a pro-deal with the London club because Spanish clubs cannot offer their players a contract until they turn 17, although Arsenal did pay £300,000.

Rosell again complained, and confronted Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis about the approach for the Spaniard. Fran Merida was another who also moved to Arsenal from the Barcelona academy when just a teenager.

The existing law mean Spanish clubs run the risk of missing out on major transfer fees for players regarded as future talents. The new law reportedly states that, starting from 2014, Spanish clubs could offer professional contracts to their players once they turn 14.

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