Barcelona have been rocked in recent days by news that FIFA are to impose a transfer ban on the club which will stretch until the summer of 2015. The Catalan giants, who have several key players who need to be replaced at the end of this season, will be unable to buy players for the next 14 months and have also had a fine of around £250,000 imposed upon them by world football’s governing body - the club have confirmed they will appeal the decision.
The charge relates to allegations that Barca did not follow FIFA guidelines when signing up to ten under-18 players since 2009, as they did not meet any of the following three 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’ [BBC].
The identity of the ten players in question has been kept confidential, but club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has labelled the ban “an injustice.” Fans have also rallied round the club, displaying a banner at a recent game against Real Betis which read ‘La Masia - No Es Toca’, or ‘La Masia (the club’s world-renowned youth academy) - don’t touch it’.
The ban comes at a particularly difficult time for the club, as some considerable rebuilding work will have to be done to the team in the next year. Defensive stalwart for club and country Carles Puyol has already poignantly announced his retirement and goalkeeper Victor Valdes, injured for the rest of the season, will also leave in the summer. There have also been rumours that Xavi, the metronomic passing heartbeat of Barcelona’s team, will seek to leave the club in the not so distant future to end his career elsewhere, possibly in the MLS.
Borussia Moenchengladbach keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has been constantly linked with a move to the Camp Nou for well over a year now and a deal has already been agreed to sign Croatian youngster Alen Halilovic from Dinamo Zagreb. With Atletico Madrid currently top of the La Liga table and the endless pockets of hated rivals Real likely to be dug into once more this summer, Barca could be left playing catch-up at the top of the league if they fail to strengthen a team which many agree is in its twilight.
Following recent economic disputes over the Neymar transfer saga and tax fraud allegations aimed at Lionel Messi, the global image of Barcelona has been tarnished somewhat in the past year. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has added fuel to the flames by backing FIFA’s decision, despite something of a notoriety for exploiting the rules regarding youngsters gained when signing a 16-year-old Cesc Fabregas in 2003. Many football fans also took to Twitter to voice their approval, with some suggesting that Barca have finally been found out for thinking themselves ‘above the rules’.
Barca fan or otherwise, what do you think on the matter? Have your say in the comment section below!