Ever since the year 2002, there has been a regulation in place regarding Serie A clubs and how many non-EU players they are allowed to register per season. You might be wondering how this affects AC Milan, so let’s take a look.
Naturally, this regulation has quite a big impact on the way that clubs conduct their squad registration and of course their transfer business too. It is not possible to go out and sign players en-masse from other continents unless the slots are available or they have an EU passport.
Given that AC Milan are a club who have done a lot of their shopping abroad in recent transfer windows after the various changes in ownership, it is always good to recap the regulations.
A club can register a maximum of two non-EU players, but it is not quite as straightforward as having two new free slots heading into every summer transfer window.
The first non-EU player can be registered without any constraints but to register the second player, one of the non-EU players already present in the team must move abroad – either because their deal expires or they are sold – or they must acquire European citizenship.
As a working example, Milan had four non-EU players in their squad at the end of the 2022-23 season, so they were able to register one new signing without any restrictions.
To register the second non-EU player then one of the existing non-EU players had to leave, with Devis Vasquez, Fikayo Tomori, Rade Krunic, Junior Messias and Marko Lazetic all candidates.
Even if multiple non-EU players were to leave the club in a window, the limit on new non-EU players registered remains two. So if Krunic, Tomori and Lazetic had all been sold, that would not have freed up three slots to be used.
Milan signed Ruben Loftus-Cheek relatively early in the summer transfer window, and that took the one totally free non-EU slot available. This meant that an exit of one of the aforementioned players was needed to gain a second slot.
However, back in July, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) decided that players with Swiss and British citizenship are equivalent to EU citizens in all respects, and these provisions will apply with reference to the 2023-24 season too, meaning effective immediately.
What did this mean for Milan? As mentioned, Loftus-Cheek arrived from Chelsea and only has an English passport so he took one of two non-EU slots, which previously meant a sale of a non-EU player was needed to free a slot for Samuel Chukwueze.
However, given that he is now equivalent to an EU player in the composition of squad lists, Milan got that non-EU slot back to use on a player without a European passport. It also means that Noah Okafor does not count as a non-EU player too.
It is worth noting that the FIGC regulation stated before that players with Swiss citizenship are equivalent to EU players in all respects, because they are part of the Schengen Agreement and the European Economic Agreement. Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016 and officially left in 2020.
English players like Fikayo Tomori (joined Milan in 2021), Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham (signed for Roma in 2020 and 2021 respectively) made the switch as non-EU players, but that all changed.
The result was that Milan were able to complete the signing of Chukwueze from Villarreal on a long-term deal without having to worry about offloading a player first.
A present example
Milan did not end up using that second non-EU slot in the end (Loftus-Cheek’s signing did not count, so Chukwueze ended up being the first slot taken after the rule change) so there is in theory one still available.
At the time of writing during the January transfer window, Milan have been linked with a number of players who would class as being non-EU, as well as some English profiles that would no longer take up a spot.
With that comes the dilemma as to whether to use that slot in January on a player who is more of a prospect for the future or whether to save it for another target.
There is another interesting twist: after the arrival of Samuel Chukwueze in the summer, the club must fill the last of the two annual non-EU slots available in order to keep two for the next season.
In other words, using the last slot has its benefits because it means two are available for the 2024 summer window (with the same rules applying as heading into next summer) and leaving one free actually gets punished.
How it compares to Europe
As Wikipedia writes, various European leagues have different rules on EU versus non-EU status, and we have outlined them for each of the major leagues:
➤ Premier League: After Britain left the EU, all non-British players must meet requirements of a points-based system to play in British leagues. These were recently relaxed.
➤ LaLiga: In the Spanish top flight, there is no per-year or per-window restriction, but each club are allowed five non-EU players in their squad and they are only allowed to name three non-EU players in each matchday squad.
➤ Bundesliga: There is actually no limit for non EU-players in the Bundesliga, however each club in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga must have at least 12 German nationality-holding players under contract.
➤ Ligue 1: In France things are a bit more complicated. There is a maximum of four non-EU players allowed in any team’s squad, but there are some nations that have been given EU-equivalent status.