In a remarkable turn of events, Barcelona have been handed a 14 month transfer ban after breaking FIFA regulations when signing players under the age of 18. The Catalan club who were looking spend heavily in the summer, particularly at the back in the form of a goalkeeper and several defenders to replace the departing Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol, but now may have to revisit their plans. This ruling by FIFA could drastically affect the team’s hopes of winning any trophies next season.
According to FIFA, Barcelona failed to comply with the rules set out when making international transfers for younger players. The transfers can go ahead as long as they either: ensure that their parents move to such a location for non-footballing reasons, they are from another country in the EU or live 100km from the club. During 2009 and 2013, the four time European Champions have been found guilty of breaking this rule in relation to an astonishing 10 players. Not only does this affect the club on the pitch but this will also damage the club’s brand. Barcelona are known for nurturing young talent and are responsible for producing stars on a non-stop conveyer belt but this impediment may hinder future negotiations for offshore prospects.
In January, Sandro Rosell, stepped down as President at Barcelona after it was alleged he had misappropriated funds from the Neymar deal reported to be originally cast at £48.6 million. The club were then forced to pay Spanish authorities £11.2 million after being charged with tax fraud for the deal involving the Brazilian striker. Rosell’s successor, Josep Maria Bartomeu, will now be faced with a new challenge to ensure that the Spanish giants don’t sit behind the shadow of his predecessor’s triumphs where the club won two La Liga titles, the Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.
FIFA made the decision yesterday morning and have also fined the club 450,000 Swiss Francs (£305,000). They will be unable to buy anyone in the next two transfer windows and the ban is likely to jeopardise current transfer negotiations. It was believed that German goalkeeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen had agreed a move to Barcelona to replace Valdes from next season onwards but this deal is yet to be confirmed. In addition last week, the club signed 17 year old Croatian midfielder Alen Halilovic, considered to be the next Lionel Messi, but the ban throws a cloud of mystery around this deal as well. Rumoured summer moves for Chelsea’s David Luiz, Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala and Real Sociedad’s french winger Antoine Griezmann now look to be off whilst Barcelona may rethink letting current players Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves leave the club anytime before next summer. If Barcelona cannot get the ruling overturned, the Catalan club will be forced to look to their academy for a fresh crop of players. This is unlikely to be an issue given the reputation of La Masia, Barcelona’s famed youth academy and the talent found within its doors.
Over the past few years, players such as Marc Bartra, Rafinha, Christian Tello, Gerard Deulofeu and Sergi Roberto have made a handful of first team appearances at the Nou Camp but the transfer ban will likely mean that they will see more playing time next season. Barta in particular could feature more as he is a natural replacement for the departing Puyol. Already a full Spanish international, Barcelona will look to Barta to forge a new partnership with Gerard Pique as the Catalan club looks to solve a problematic area that has haunted them this season. Brazilian Rafinha is also likely to feature heavily next season whilst Spanish striker Bojan Krkić could be recalled from his loan spell at Ajax. The challenge for head coach Gerardo Martino will be to build a squad that can continue to compete on all fronts without bring in any reinforcements from other clubs. Real Madrid will move ahead with its plans to spend big money, with PSG’s Marco Verratti and Bayern’s Thomas Muller top of their wish list. Meanwhile Atletico Madrid will likely build on this successful La Liga season and are expected to be a force again next year meaning Barcelona fans may need to brace themselves for another toughly contested campaign.
Post by Richard Waterhouse