The Ultimate Guide To Loans In Football

When a player goes on loan to another club, there are some technicalities to how this deal is struck between both clubs.

Kylian Mbappe is one of the most high-profile players to move on loan in recent years when he joined Paris Saint-Germain from AS Monaco in 2017.

Similarly, clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, and Atalanta have several players out on loan every season.

Some rules and regulations govern loans in football, and here’s what you need to know.

What does it mean when a player goes on loan?

In football, a player being sent out on loan means the player has to spend time at a club different from his parent club. Loans are usually structured to have specific conditions and clauses which both clubs have to agree to. 

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There are three types of loan deals that teams may agree upon in football:

Straight loanThe player returns to his parent club
at the expiry of the loan period
Loan with buy optionThe player may be signed on a permanent deal if
he manages to impress the club
enough in his time with them.
Loan with buy obligationThe club that signs the player on loan is obligated to sign the
player permanently after the loan period is completed. 
This is usually subject to some
pre-determined clauses and agreements. 

You can find out more about loans with an obligation to buy here.

Also, there are several reasons that clubs may have for loaning out their players. 

Over the years, loan deals have come to be attributed to clubs with players who deserve to play regularly, but the parent clubs cannot offer them the number of minutes they deserve. After a player comes through his club’s academy system as a youngster, he is often sent on loan to hone his skills in the men’s game.

These loans are meant to toughen the players up and prepare them for first-team football. 

Players like Mason Mount, Casemiro, Reece James, Thibaut Courtois, Emile Smith-Rowe, Kylian Mbappe, and several others have benefited from being sent out on loan as youngsters to mature and gain valuable experience, which has helped them to become better footballers. 

Similarly, some clubs send players out on loan because they do not fit into their present plans and would want to test the player’s compatibility with another team.

This type of loan is quite common in the football world, regardless of age!

Chelsea sent Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan on loan in the summer of 2022 despite only signing the striker for almost €100 million just a year earlier.

Similarly, Antoine Griezmann rejoined Atletico Madrid on loan in the summer of 2021 after falling out of favour at the Nou Camp just two years after joining Barcelona.

Barcelona also sent Philippe Coutinho on loan to Bayern Munich and Aston Villa after he struggled for form and fitness. He eventually signed for Aston Villa on a permanent deal after spending six months on loan from Barcelona.

In fact, Coutinho actually scored against his parent club, Barcelona, while on loan to Bayern! You can find out more about the different rules of loan players playing against their parent clubs here.

Also, players may be loaned out after a serious injury to help them get the required minutes to aid their rehabilitation and recovery process.

Chelsea did it with Ruben Loftus-Cheek after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2019, and he was sent to Fulham on loan the following season after he recovered from the injury.

How does a loan player get paid?

The clubs involved in a loan transfer work together to determine how the payment of the player’s salary is structured. In some cases, the player’s parent club agrees to foot the entirety of his wages while he’s on loan at another club.

In most occasions, a parent club is responsible for paying the player when a youngster is sent out on loan to gain valuable experience.

A second approach is to have the club which takes a player on loan agree to pay his entire salary. An example of this is the case of Lukaku, who is set to receive all of his wages from Inter Milan after signing for the Italian club on loan in the summer of 2022.

The most common approach, however, is to have both clubs agree to split the player’s wages, with each club paying a certain percentage of the player’s total wages.

For example, Manchester United and Inter Milan shared Alexis Sanchez‘s wages after moving him to Inter Milan on loan. Manchester United paid £300,000 while Inter covered the remaining £100,000. 

Can a loan player be recalled?

There are no rules in any league that explicitly state whether a loan player can be recalled or not. Still, when a club sends out its players on loan, it is usually with the premise that the players in question will play adequate minutes to aid their development. In cases where this is not the case, the parent club retains the exclusive right to recall their player from the loan.

In 2021-22, Arsenal recalled youngster Miguel Azeez from his loan spell at Portsmouth after the club felt that he did not see enough game action to improve as much as they wanted. 

Moreover, some clubs recall their players when they feel they deserve to be at a better club than the one they were loaned to.

In this case, Chelsea recalled Jamie Cumming from his loan spell at Gillingham in January 2022 and sent the goalkeeper to MK Dons in the same window.

Sometimes, the managers recall their players after a serious injury to a squad member. For example, in 2021-22, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel opted to recall left-back Emerson Palmieri from his loan spell at Olympique Lyonnais to provide cover after Ben Chilwell ruptured his ACL.

The club even offered to pay to get their player back, but Lyon declined to allow the Italian international to return to London.

This is evidence that a club can deny the parent club’s request for their player to return to their fold before the expiry of his loan deal. 

Similarly, then-Chelsea manager Antonio Conte recalled Nathan Aké midway through his loan spell at Bournemouth in 2017 to provide defensive cover without suffering any major injury losses.

How long does a loan last in football?

The duration of loan deals varies based on the situation surrounding the loans. In the past, there have been loans involving players from Premier League clubs that had to make the temporary switch for only a couple of weeks.

Jesse Lingard, for example, joined Leicester City on a one-month loan from Manchester United in November 2012. His loan was eventually extended for one more month until January 2013. 

More common loan durations are the six-month and one-year loan deals. Also, players like Andreas Christensen, Federico Chiesa, and Thibaut Courtois have enjoyed two-year loan spells at Borussia Monchengladbach, Juventus, and Atletico Madrid, respectively, in their careers.

The clubs involved in the loan arrangement decide how long they want the loan spell to last.

Do football players have to agree to loan deals?

Most loan deals come to be as a result of the club’s decision to let the player leave temporarily. Sometimes, the decision to send a player out on loan may be because the player needs to play regularly, and his club cannot offer him his required minutes. In this case, the idea of a loan is floated to the player, but the player has the right to either accept or decline to move on loan. 

When a player feels he can stay at the club and fight for his shirt, the player may refuse to move on loan.

An example of a player who refused to move on a loan is Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi. The defender enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at Swansea City for 18 months before returning to his parent club Chelsea where he made it clear that he was not prepared to go on loan again and would prefer to be sold permanently instead.

A few weeks after, he joined Crystal Palace on a permanent deal.

Also, Real Madrid great Marcelo refused to leave the club on loan after his first season at the club as a teenager, preferring to remain at the club to fight for his shirt.

You can find out more about why players go on loan here.


Loans are an important part of a player’s development, and they can actually impress their parent club with their exceptional performances.

However, there may be times where a loan spell may go wrong, resulting in the player being recalled early!

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