Barcelona transfer ban: what it means for the Premier League
The Fifa ban will hurt Barca, and cause transfer chaos across Europe this summer and beyond
BARCELONA, arguably the biggest club in world football, have been dealt a massive blow on and off the pitch after Fifa imposed a 14-month transfer ban on the Catalan club for breaking the rules over signing under-18s.
If upheld, the punishment means that the Spanish champions will not be able to sign any new players until the summer of 2015, something that would jeopardise their chances of success next season and could mean that two big deals already arranged for this summer have to be scrapped. It could also cause chaos in this summer's transfer window.
The ban comes after a series of other scandals that have damaged the club's standing in world football.
What is the ban for? It relates to the signing of several, unnamed, under 18 players between 2009 and 2013. Fifa regulations forbid international transfers of players under the age of 18 except in three specific circumstances: where the player's family are moving country for non-footballing reasons; where the player is over the age of 16 and moving between nations in the European Union; and where the new club is less than 50 miles from the player's home. "Barcelona have three South Koreans, including Lee [Seung-Woo], and a clutch of African and South American players dotted through their youth system," says The Times.
Is there any other punishment? Barcelona have been fined 450,000 Swiss Francs (£305,000) for the breaches. The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has also been reprimanded and given a year to improve its "regulatory framework".
What does it mean for the team? It will have a "hugely significant" impact on the team, says Andy West of the BBC. "With veteran captain Carles Puyol and goalkeeper Victor Valdes leaving at the end of the season, the club had already announced their intention to splash out on top-class replacements. Now that seems impossible, which means the squad will be severely weakened next season." Deals were in place for a new goalkeeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Borussia Mönchengladbach, and teenage midfielder Alen Halilovic, dubbed the "new Lionel Messi" who were to join at the end of the season. Those moves are now in serious doubt.
Will it affect other clubs? Yes. "Any side hoping to sign a player from Barcelona will presumably have to forget it," says website SB Nation. What's more, adds the website, Barcelona, “had a considerable and important shopping list for the summer." Removing Barcelona from the global transfer market for a year could have massive repercussions for the flow of players and money in the game. Chelsea, for example, were widely tipped to sell defender David Luiz to Barcelona this summer for a fee in excess of £20m. If that deal does not come off it will have a major impact on Chelsea's transfer dealings this summer and they may have to abandon plans to sign Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.
And the way clubs do business? "Fifa's clampdown on the Catalans, who have prided themselves on their recruitment and youth training programme for years, will send shockwaves across every major club in Europe," says Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror. He suggests that Europe's scouts will no longer be able to travel the world looking for young talent. It is clear that Fifa believes, "while international transfers might, in specific cases, be favourable to a young player's sporting career, they are very likely to be contrary to the best interests of the player as a minor,” he explains.
What about Barcelona's reputation? It is also very damaging to the Barcelona brand, which is summed up by its motto 'Mes que un club' (More than a club). However, this is not the first scandal to affect the club. Lionel Messi was accused of tax fraud last year and the transfer of Brazilian superstar Neymar to the club last summer has become mired in allegations of fraud. Barcelona's reputation "has taken a huge battering in the last few months and will be further tarnished by this latest development", says West of the BBC.
Will they appeal? Almost certainly, and they will take heart from the experience of Chelsea, who were hit with a similar ban in 2009 after signing Gael Kakuta from French club Lens. "But in truth the similarities are not particularly extensive," warns Rory Smith of the Times. "Chelsea were charged with inducing Kakuta to break the training contract he had at Lens, not with contravening Fifa's rules about international transfers. That case was much simpler than this to fix."
What happens now? Barcelona have 90 days to decide whether to appeal. That means, if they wait, they can ensure that their punishment is delayed, and that could ensure some transfers are possible this year.