Last updated on March 24th, 2022
You may have seen Coutinho scoring against his parent club Barcelona in the Champions League. However, players on loan in the Premier League that cannot play against their clubs!
This rule is pretty confusing, as each league has their own rule. Here’s a breakdown of which leagues allow loan players to play against their parent clubs, and which ones don’t.
- 1 Can loan players play against their parent club?
- 2 Can loan players play against their parent club in the Premier League?
- 3 Can loan players play in the FA Cup?
- 4 Can loan players play against their parent club in the Champions League?
- 5 Can loan players play against their parent club in La Liga?
- 6 Can loan players play against their parent club in the Europa League?
- 7 Can loan players play against their parent club in the Championship?
- 8 Can loan players play against their parent club in Scotland?
- 9 Conclusion
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Can loan players play against their parent club?
FIFA does not provide any rules to govern whether loan players can play against their parent club. These rules would depend on the individual leagues, such as the Premier League. In leagues where there are no rules regarding this, clubs may add a clause in the loan contract. This will prevent their loanee to play against them.
Interestingly, FIFA does have a clause preventing clubs from influencing the employment of its players when on loan.
However, this does not explicitly cover whether clubs can prevent their loaned players from playing against them. As such, here are the different rules regarding loan players in the different leagues:
Can loan players play against their parent club in the Premier League?
The Premier League Handbook explicitly states that a player on loan cannot play against his parent club in the EPL. As such, there is no possible way that a player on loan can play against their parent club in a Premier League match, even if the parent club permits it.
However, Arsene Wenger has hit out against this law, saying that the rule should be abolished. He claimed that abolishing this rule will help to ‘protect the integrity of the league’. Despite this call out, the rule still stands. As such, player on loan cannot play against their parent club.
Notable examples of players unable to play against their parent club in the Premier League
Here are some notable examples of some players who could not play against their parent club:
#1 Dean Henderson (Sheffield United) vs Manchester United (2019/20)
Dean Henderson was flying at Sheffield United. With him as their goalkeeper, they had one of the best defences in the Premier League.
A reason why Henderson went out on loan could be due to him being unable to secure his first-team spot.
However, Henderson was unable to play against his parent club, Manchester United. Before the match, Sheffield were in 5th place while Manchester United was 7th.
The game eventually ended 3-3.
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#2 Romelu Lukaku (Everton) vs Chelsea (2013/14)
Lukaku was playing well when he was on loan to Everton from Chelsea. However, he was unable to play against Chelsea. This then prompted Arsene Wenger to claim the rule should be abolished.
Funnily enough, he did score against Chelsea in the 2015/16 FA Cup when he permanently moved to Everton.
#3 Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace)
Conor Gallagher joined Crystal Palace on loan in the 2021/22 Premier League season from Chelsea. He played extremely well for Crystal Palace, and has been one of their main men.
However, due to the loan rule, he was unable to play against Chelsea in their Premier League clash.
Can loan players play in the FA Cup?
Loan players are not allowed to play against their parent club in the FA Cup, as it is explicitly stated in the Rules of the FA Cup that they are unable to play against their ‘Lending Club’.
The new rules of the FA Cup now prevent any loan player to play against his parent club.
Previously, in the 2009-2010 rule book, it did not mention the rules for loan players against their parent clubs.
The rules have now changed, and it is not possible to do so!
This has led to players like Conor Gallagher not being able to play for his loan club (Crystal Palace), as he is facing his parent club (Chelsea) in the semi-final.
You can view a comparison between the FA Cup and the EFL Cup here.
Can loan players play against their parent club in the Champions League?
UEFA did not implement any rules that prevent a loan player from playing against his parent club in the UEFA Champions League (UCL). As such, players are allowed to play against their parent club in the event that the two clubs meet each other during a Champions League match.
If you’re wondering which teams can play in the UEFA Champions League, you can check out my guide here.
With no rule in place, this has led to rather interesting matches where the player on loan plays against his parent club.
The same rules should apply to the Europa League as well.
#1 Thibaut Courtois (Atletic Madrid) vs Chelsea (2013/14)
This was the match that caused the greatest controversy. When Courtois was on loan to Atletico Madrid, there was a clause in the contract regarding him playing against his parent club, Chelsea.
Atletico’s president Enrique Cerezo said that this clause stipulated that a ‘large sum of money’ must be paid to Chelsea so that Courtois can play against them. UEFA deemed this clause to be invalid, and Courtois was allowed to play against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.
Over the course of 2 legs, Atletico came out the winners 3-1 on aggregate.
#2 Kingsely Coman (Bayern) vs Juventus (2015/16)
Coman was on loan to Bayern Munich from Juventus in the 2015/16 season. They met each other in the UCL Round of 16.
The game went to extra time with the aggregate tied at 4-4. Thiago scored in the 108th minute. Coman then scored this goal to knock Juventus out.
#3 Coutinho (Bayern) vs Barcelona (2019/20)
The much-maligned Coutinho was shipped off to Bayern Munich after performing poorly for Barcelona. Bayern met Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, where they came out 8-2 winners.
To further rub salt on the wound, Coutinho came off the bench, scoring 2 goals and providing 1 assist.
Coutinho can be seen raising his hands as he did not celebrate against his parent club. This is similar to how footballers do not celebrate against their former clubs.
#4 James Rodriguez (Bayern) vs Real Madrid (2017/18)
Bayern really do love their loan players, don’t they? James Rodriguez was on loan at Bayern, when they met Real Madrid in the Champions League Semi-Finals.
Having lost the first leg 2-1 at home, Bayern needed a strong performance to reach the next stage. Rodriguez managed to score against his parent club.
However, this was in vain as Bayern ultimately lost 4-3 on aggregate.
#5 Patrick Roberts (Celtic) vs Man City (2016/17)
Patrick Roberts was on loan to Celtic when Manchester City met Celtic in the Champions League group stages. Within 4 minutes of his return to the Etihad, Roberts scored a stunning goal against his parent club.
#6 Anderson Talisca (Besiktas) vs Benfica (2016/17)
Talisca was on loan to Besiktas when they met Benfica in the Champions League Group Stages. Besiktas was down 1-0, and there was a free-kick in the 93rd minute. Who else but Talisca to step up and curl this stunning free-kick into the net?
#7 Fernando Morientes (AS Monaco) vs Real Madrid (2003/04)
Monaco were set to play Real Madrid in the quarter finals of the Champions League. He scored a goal in each leg as Monaco triumphed over Real Madrid.
Can loan players play against their parent club in La Liga?
In La Liga, there is no rule that prohibits players from playing against their parent club. However, most Spanish clubs place a clause in the loan contract which prevents their loanee from playing against them.
However, Real Madrid decided to remove this clause. This allowed their loanees to play against them from the 2019/20 season onwards.
#1 Diego Llorente (Malaga) vs Real Madrid (2016/17)
Diego Llorente was on loan to Malaga in the 2016/17 season. Despite performing well for Malaga, he was unable to feature against his parent club.
#2 Marco Asensio (Espanyol) vs Real Madrid (2015/16)
Marco Asensio was loaned out to Espanyol in the 2015/16 season. He was unable to play against his parent club Real Madrid.
#3 Takefusa Kubo (Real Mallorca) vs Real Madrid (2019/20)
With Real Madrid relaxing the ‘parent-club clause’, their loan players could now play against them. One of the players that benefitted was Takefusa Kubo, on loan at Mallorca from Real Madrid.
#4 Odegaard (Real Sociedad) vs Real Madrid (2019/20)
While not in the La Liga, Odegaard faced his parent club in the Copa Del Rey Quarter Finals in the 2019/20 season. As you may expect, Odegaard went ahead to score against his parent club which knocked Real Madrid out of the cup.
You can see how La Liga differs from the Copa del Rey in my comparison.
Can loan players play against their parent club in the Europa League?
Similar to the Champions League which are both under UEFA, loan players are allowed to play against their parent club in the Europa League. UEFA claims that any private contract that influences another team’s selection is null and void. This is done so as to maintain integrity in the competition.
Can loan players play against their parent club in the Championship?
According to the EFL Rules, a player on loan to another club cannot play against his parent club. The only way that the player is able to play against his parent club would be when his parent club provides written consent.
This is slightly more relaxed compared to the Premier League!
Can loan players play against their parent club in Scotland?
In the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), the rulebook explicitly states that the loanee is unable to play against his parent club under any circumstances. This includes league matches, cup matches and playoff matches.
The regulations by the SPFL are stricter compared to those in the Premier League, which still allow the loanee to play against the parent club in cup matches.
It is interesting to see different leagues having different rules for this unique situation. Most of these rules are done to maintain the integrity of the competition. However, the leagues do take a different stance on how the integrity of the competition should be preserved.
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