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Oumar Niasse cannot play in the Europa League group stage — here’s why

The striker is ineligible for now, but for good reason

Everton v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

We now go to a live look-in at Everton supporters after Saturday’s match:

Oumar Niasse-mania is in full swing after the Senegalese striker’s brace saved Everton against Bournemouth on Saturday. Niasse now has three goals in 50 minutes over the last two matches — so he’s an obvious choice to start in Everton’s Europa League match on Thursday, right?

Oumar Niasse is not on Everton’s Europa League squad list, and is therefore ineligible to play in any of the club’s group stage matches.

“But Ross Barkley is on that list! How could Koeman be so stupid to include him, but not Niasse?” I hear you ask angrily.

That is definitely how it looks at first glance, but a deeper dig into Europa League roster rules explains how Everton’s new cult hero missed out on the roster — and how it actually doesn’t reflect that poorly on Koeman.

There are two types of players who can be named to a Europa League roster — those who go on List A, and those who go on List B. Let’s start by defining what constitutes a List B player.

Per UEFA Europa League Regulations 2017/18 article 42.11:

A player may be registered on List B if he is born on or after 1 January 1996 and has been eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday by the time he is registered with UEFA. Players aged 16 may be registered on List B if they have been registered with the participating club for the previous two years without interruption.

Basically, any player who turns 22 on or after January 1, 1996 and has been with the club in question for at least two consecutive years can be a List B player.

A team can register as many List B players as it wants, which is why Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal squad in the Europa League has over 40 players — he included basically any player who is eligible for a List B designation.

Everton named only three List B players: Mason Holgate, Jonjoe Kenny, and Tom Davies. Obviously, Niasse is not eligible to be a List B player, so this rule does not apply to him.

It is worth noting that clubs can add as many List B players as they want as the group stage progresses — provided they are added before midnight the night before the first match they participate in.

That brings us to List A, which is comprised of all included players who are not List B eligible. Each club may name up to 25 List A players for the group stage, but filling out the roster with 25 players is more complicated than you might expect — and once the List A players are set, they cannot be changed until the knockout round.

The easiest way to imagine List A, given the additional rules applying to it, is to divide its players into three pools.

Pool 1 — “Club-Trained Players”

Four spots on List A can only be filled by club-trained players.

Per article 42.04:

A "club-trained player" is a player who, between the age of 15 (or the start of the season during which he turns 15) and 21 (or the end of the season during which he turns 21), and irrespective of his nationality and age, has been registered with his current club for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons (i.e. a period starting with the first official match of the relevant national championship and ending with the last official match of that relevant national championship) or of 36 months.

Basically, a club-trained player is one who between the ages of 15 and 21 spent three seasons/36 months with the club in question.

Everton only has two players who fit this description — Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley. Recall that Tom Davies, Jonjoe Kenny, and Mason Holgate are List B players, so they don’t apply here. Certainly Oumar Niasse, brought to the club at age 25, does not fit the bill.

In the absence of two additional club-trained players, Everton must leave two spots in this pool unfilled. So, technically, Everton named only 23 List A players to their Europa League roster — but only because the club does not have enough players eligible for this pool.

Pool 2 — “Association-Trained Players”

Four spots on List A can only be filled by association-trained players.

Per article 42.05:

An "association-trained player" is a player who, between the age of 15 (or the start of the season during which the player turns 15) and 21 (or the end of the season during which the player turns 21), and irrespective of his nationality and age, has been registered with a club or with other clubs affiliated to the same association as that of his current club for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or of 36 months.

An association-trained player, in Everton’s case, is one who was with any English club for three years between the ages of 15 and 21.

Several players fit this description — so for argument’s sake, let’s put Jordan Pickford, Leighton Baines, Michael Keane, and Phil Jagielka, all of whom were definite locks for the squad, in those four spots. Many other Everton players could fit here too, but as you’ll see shortly, the specific players defined as association-trained don’t really matter.

It is worth noting, though, that Niasse does not fit into this pool either.

Pool 3 — All Other Players

We’ve now set aside our List B, club-trained, and association-trained players. That leaves 17 roster spots left for the remainder of Everton’s players. Here’s a breakdown of how Koeman filled out those spots:

Goalkeepers: Maarten Stekelenburg, Joel Robles

Defenders: Ashley Williams, Cuco Martina, Seamus Coleman

Midfielders: Morgan Schneiderlin, James McCarthy, Idrissa Gueye, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen, Muhamed Besic

Attackers: Kevin Mirallas, Aaron Lennon, Nikola Vlasic, Ademola Lookman, Sandro Ramirez, Dominic Calvert-Lewin

For Niasse to have made the Europa League squad, he would have had to replaced one of these 17 players.

The goalkeepers are a lock, so that narrows the field to 15. Williams, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Sigurdsson, Klaassen, Mirallas, Lennon, Vlasic, Lookman, Sandro, and Calvert-Lewin were all basically locks as well — that brings the number of potential replacements to four.

Say what you will about Cuco Martina, but he’s a warm body that can play across the back line in a pinch, so he was always going to make it — that leaves three players. Same for Besic, who can play as a deep-lying midfielder, box-to-box midfielder, or center-back.

That leaves us with two. To me, the players Niasse would be most likely to replace in this group are James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman. Niasse obviously plays a different role than any of those players, but they were the closest to getting the axe in the first place, I’d imagine.

McCarthy, still fighting back to fitness and evidently not favored by Koeman, could have been dropped — but that would leave the team with just five central midfielders in the group, two of whom are the attack-minded Sigurdsson and Klaassen. Despite the Irishman’s injury and poor preseason, it’s hard to argue that having that few central midfielders would be a good idea.

That leaves Coleman, who is projected to return in November. An early or mid-month return would put the right-back in line to play at home against Atalanta on November 23 and away to Apollon Limassol on December 7.

It’s also worth noting that Yannick Bolasie didn’t make the Europa League roster either — so Niasse would have had to jumped one of the Irish duo and Bolasie in Koeman’s mind when the roster was announced on September 5.

In short then, for Oumar Niasse to have made the Europa League squad, Ronald Koeman would have had to do one of the following:

  • Left his team with just five central midfielders, two of whom aren’t equipped to play a holding role
  • Left out his game-changing right-back, who will hopefully be able to compete in the final two group stage matches.

One of these would have had to come in addition to the choice of Niasse over Bolasie, who is also expected back in November. All of those decisions would have had to come at the start of the month — before Niasse had even completed his forceful move back into first-team consideration.

With all of that considered, it’s hard to be critical of Koeman for not including the striker in his Europa League squad.

One final, important note on this matter — if Everton makes the knockout round, the club can add three new players to its squad, but according to the same rules that apply in the group stage. So to add Niasse, Everton will have to remove one of the 17 players in the “Other” group.

The same goes for Yannick Bolasie and any other player brought in via the January transfer window.

If his team makes the knockout stage, Koeman will have plenty of options — but also some difficult decisions to make.