Sunderland have today announce a partnership with Belgian side Lierse SK, hoping to be able to advance the development of younger players, with a primary focus on bringing young talent from places such as Africa to the club quicker than what would have been the normal process.
It's the second of such development's, and could become part of a chain of players moving, as the club have already agreed a link with top Ghanaian club Asante Kotoko.
The move is a very interesting one. Players can only be signed at the moment from non-EU countries if they have hit a certain quota of international games. Younger, emerging players can still be signed should the country believe they qualify for a special talent permit, which are rarely handed out.
Through playing in Belgium, a player may gain EU citizenship after only three years, as opposed to the five years it would take in the UK.
Lierse also have a decent history with African talent at the club, including current Wigan Athletic striker Arouna Kone, and whilst they currently site fourth from bottom in the Belgian Pro League, ten of the current squad come from African countries.
Sunderland now become one of several teams with ties to Belgium, as sides such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all have similar deals in the country.
This partnership will be one to keep an eye on, and see if it turns into anything special. It would be a huge boon to the club if we could start and bring through players of this nature. It's beyond our capacity to truly compete at the very, very top level for talent when the likes of the big four can hoover them up as they please, but it's been proven in other countries that modest budgets can yield success if scouting is done well. Look at the likes of Ajax, Porto and Udinese.
It all sounds to me like Sunderland are very much looking at the possibility of heading down this route, and it's a move I heartily welcome.