FC Barcelona suffered a potentially serious blow on Wednesday after FIFA handed the club a 14-month transfer ban for its involvement signing international players under the age of 18. The Catalan giants won’t be allowed to buy or sell players until the summer of 2015.
Barcelona is expected to appeal the decision and given how these things work it would a surprise if the penalty isn’t reduced to a minor slap on the wrist.
Fifa rules state that international transfers are only permitted for players over the age of 18 – unless the player in question meets one of three qualifying criteria.
Under-18s can move to a club in a different country if their parents move there for non-footballing reasons, if they are from another nation within the European Union or European Economic Area and aged between 16 and 18, or if they live within 100km of the club.
Barcelona were found to be in “serious” violation of the rules from 2009 through 2013.
This is the second court issue to hit Barcelona in recent months, with the signing of Brazilian star Neymar under investigation for tax improprieties.
If the transfer ban holds firm, it could significantly hinder Barcelona. Club captain Carles Puyol announced he’ll leave the club. Starting goalie Victor Valdes is out of contract and already said he’s moving elsewhere. German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been lined up to replace Valdes, but we’ll have to wait and see if the move goes through with the FIFA ban in place. The small silver lining here for Barcelona is its youth teams always produce players ready to help out the first team, but given the club’s long-standing issues in central defense the ban comes at a very inopportune time. At the moment Barcelona only has two healthy center backs at its disposal, Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra.
That said, nobody outside of Barcelona loyalists will feel too bad about the ban what with the team consistently going on about being “more than a club” when it reality it’s no purer than any other big-time soccer club in its pursuit of gobbling up elite talent to bolster its ranks.
Given how FIFA — and Barcelona operate — everyone ought to be at least a little leery of this transfer ban actually being enforced, regardless of today’s headlines. Figure that other clubs could throw their support behind Barca since they don’t want FIFA dictating how they run their business.