UNITED KINGDOM - It is clear that something has gone wrong with the loan system.
What was intended to be an emergency loophole for struggling clubs and became a convenient way to offer a lower league "finishing school "for young players has ballooned into something far stranger.
It now seems to be more like livestock farming, a new revenue stream for clubs that hardly needed a new one.
At the start of last season, Manchester City had 82 players on their books, Chelsea had 75, while Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur had 74 each. Outside of the 25-man Premier League squads, many of these players represented the youth and development squads.
But many others were sent out on loan.
Chelsea currently have 26 players scattered around the world on deals that remove them from the wage bill while retaining their registrations, should they develop. Other major clubs too.
The benefits for the big clubs are obvious.
At a crucial stage of development, young players are given first team football that they wouldn't have at their parent club.
They are removed from the wage bill and, if they prosper, theoretically they will progress to the first team. Thibaut Courtois, who spent three years at Atletico Madrid, is a perfect example. But in most cases, the loanee never returns. It's simply a way to allow the stockpiling of young talent. Buy them in bulk, lend them in bulk and keep the minority who succeed.
Outside of the rarefied air of the Premier League, considerable damage is felt further down the food chain. The largest clubs can afford to industrially fish the backwaters of English football, throwing down their nets and dragging everything up, whether they need it or not.
Their revenues are now so spectacularly superior that they could sign every player and coach from a League Two side on long-term contracts and barely notice the impact on their wage bill.
Thus, the smaller clubs are hit with a double whammy.
Anyone showing the remotest sign of talent in the youth leagues is snapped up before they've even come close to playing a first team game, their exit hastened by the Elite Player Performance Plan that minimises compensation payments.
When those players fail to make the grade, as is the case for all but a tiny minority, their return down the divisions is slowed by the loan system.
Knowing that there is no risk, that their youngsters' wages are covered by the loaning club, they can keep farming them out until their long contracts expire, on the off chance that they come good.