?In a world of mega transfer deals and frequent player disloyalty, one club has remained an outlier in the transfer market; Athletic Club de Bilbao.
Since 1912, the club has stuck to a rule to only sign players from the Basque region in which the club is situated, as well as players from Basque academies.
Amazingly, despite their own self-inflicted recruitment limitations, Athletic Club have never been relegated from Spain’s top flight, have won eight La Liga titles and even made it to this year’s Copa del Rey final.
Throughout the years, they have consistently produced and/or nurtured top talent (see: Telmo Zarra, Andoni Zubizarreta, Javi Martinez, Fernando Llorente and Aymeric Laporte) and have continued to swim upstream in an increasingly globalised game.
This got us at 90min thinking, what would the Premier League’s top sides look like if they followed a similar model of only signing players from their catchment area?
Sorry to say Arsenal fans, but this means no Aubameyang or Lacazette!
This north-London specific Gunners side produces a strange defensive line including Reece Oxford and Ryan Fredericks as well as – oddly – former Liverpool flop Tiago Ilori. The Portuguese defender was born in Hampstead and thus qualifies for this side – who knew?!
While that defence may have been scary, the ?Arsenal midfield is equally as bizarre. Current Fulham star Harry Arter would be augmenting the midfield alongside Bournemouth’s forgotten man Jordon Ibe. Providing creative talent could be former Tottenham youngster – and thus traitor – Josh Onomah.
Up top, another perhaps lesser name in the form of ?Swansea legend Wayne Routledge. The diminutive forward would provide some much-needed experience to this side.
For a club who famously fielded the first XI to include no English players in 1999, this may be a difficult task, However, after a brief dig around, it becomes clear that the Blues (restricted to the borough of Kensington and Chelsea) may have a pretty solid team.
In goal, current ?Southampton stopper Alex McCarthy would be no slouch – perhaps would do a better job than the man currently between the sticks for the club. In defence, a full-back pairing of Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne would be unmatched by any other club. Boyhood fan Shaw famously turned down ?Chelsea and Jose Mourinho to sign for Manchester United, only to then get slated every week by Mourinho, at United.
The midfield/attack is where it gets tasty. Providing the width could be ?Borussia Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho and Celtic’s gifted youngster Karamoko Dembele. Leading the line would be West Ham’s utility man and celebration king Michail Antonio.
Pace certainly would not be an issue for this group of Chelsea pensioners.
League leaders Liverpool would certainly not be winning any titles with this hypothetical team.
While their potential keeper Tom Heaton would do a decent job in goal, the backline is a slight downgrade on Virgil van Dijk. However, Aaron Cresswell, Scott Dann and Sheffield United star Jack O’Connell are all available, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Coady are both in the mix.
The shocking revelation in midfield is that boyhood ?Everton Ross Barkley would be plying his trade for Merseyside arch-rivals Liverpool alongside Curtis Jones. He’s already hated by Toffees fans anyway, so it’s not the end of the world.
Leading the line for the mighty reds would be Premier League throwback and one-cap England man David Nugent.
As a side much criticised for their inability to bring through home-grown players, perhaps this would be the perfect test.
At the back, the Citizens would look relatively solid with current ?Man City star Kyle Walker alongside ?Burnley stalwart James Tarkowski.
The midfield would see current Aston Villa player Danny Drinkwater – the man’s whose career has taken a nosedive – alongside the once highly touted Tom Ince.
In attack, the former Manchester United fan and player Danny Welbeck would be making a shock switch to the blue side of the city.
While famed for their academy in the recent past, let’s have a look at some other players who could find their way into the Old Trafford XI.
In defence, a solid back three of Phil Jagielka, Ben Mee and Rob Holding would provide some steel and some experience, despite the obvious lack of speed.
In midfield, a dynamic duo of Ravel Morison and Brighton’s Dale Stephens would replace Graeme Souness’ favourite player Paul Pogba.
In attack, current first-team stars Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard would still be at the club, with Rashford offering some much needed attacking thrust, while Lingard…dances.
As for Spurs, their potential local side would be about as exciting as Mourinho’s current brand of football.
A defence including Bournemouth full-back Charlie Daniels, Derby veteran Curtis Davies and former Arsenal laughing stock Carl Jenkinson is as bland a backline as you can imagine.
In midfield, the former England international Jake Livermore and current Aston Villa rotation player Henri Lansbury would provide a Championship level partnership.
In attack, alongside the main man himself Harry Kane would be the returning figure of Andros Townsend, with the long-range specialist a good attacking outlet.