West Brom: Nathan Ferguson could leave 'for basically nothing'
West Bromwich Albion head coach Slaven Bilic fears losing homegrown teenage defender Nathan Ferguson "for basically nothing" if he moves abroad.
The Baggies confirmed this week that 19-year-old Ferguson had turned down the offer of a new contract.
Ferguson was on the verge of joining Premier League side Crystal Palace in January before the move fell through because of a knee injury.
Albion could expect a tribunal fee if he moves within England.
But he would be worth only a fraction of his market value if he goes abroad - and clubs across Europe were reportedly looking at him in December and January.
"They have to do something to protect the clubs," Bilic told BBC Radio WM.
"I'm gutted because we're in a situation like many other clubs.
"You are producing players. Produce, produce. Your academy is vital. Your academy is important. These situations keep happening. Not only with us, but every club.
"You come to the point where you think 'what is the point of having an academy?' when your club is not protected enough - especially after this coronavirus.
"For clubs, the only way of survival is by producing players.
"And if they go abroad, they go for basically nothing. They've got to change it. They have to find a solution. There's a solution for everything."
Ferguson's pathway at the Albion
After joining Albion at the age of eight, Ferguson has progressed through the ranks.
He was in the squad that reached last season's FA Youth Cup semi-finals, made his debut under Bilic in August and has now played 21 first-team games.
"We have known since January," said Bilic. "But I'm disappointed that we're going to lose a real quality player who we hoped would stay with us for a very long time and improve - and help us improve as a team.
"He's very young. He can be a top player in that position, or in a couple of positions.
"Now we have to cope without him and find someone else. And it is very difficult, considering who we are, to buy another player of that calibre. Impossible, basically."
Albion boss Slaven Bilic was talking to BBC WM's Rob Gurney.