Updates from Wednesday, April 23
Barcelona may yet be able to sign players this summer after it was reported that FIFA will suspend the ban imposed on them for multiple rule breaches.
Spanish football and Bleacher Report UK expert Guillem Balague tweeted on Wednesday:
FIFA will allow Barcelona to sign players this summer. Their suspension is suspended for now— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) April 23, 2014
Updates from Friday, April 4
Real Madrid's third vice-president, Pedro Lopez Jimenez, has rubbished suggestions that Real Madrid reported Barcelona to FIFA prior to the governing body's decision to impose a transfer ban on the Catalan giants.
Lopez, a member of the FIFA player status committee, told AS as reported by Football Espana via Eurosport:
Neither Real Madrid nor myself as a member of FIFA have anything to do with the punishment given to Barcelona.
My membership of the player status committee has nothing to do with Madrid or Florentino Perez.
What was discussed was Barca’s request to award a badge of excellence to its sporting academies, including La Masia, which the record will show I voted for.
I wish to make it clear that the committee to which I belong has no sanctioning power.
Updates from Thursday, April 3
Barcelona's official Twitter feed, Lee Roden of Segunda, Dermot Corrigan of ESPN and AS have Barca president Josep Bartomeu's comments from his press conference on Thursday:
“We are asking for the suspension of the ban as an interim measure”, according to the President #fcblive— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 3, 2014
Bartomeu: "We have some evidence that leads us to think someone wants to hurt our club. We won't stop looking. There is important evidence."— Lee Roden (@LeeRoden89) April 3, 2014
Bartomeu: "We won't renounce our academy and it's models. La Masia won't be touched, that's the message we want to send."— Lee Roden (@LeeRoden89) April 3, 2014
Bartomeu: "I have not spoken with Blatter. But I've spoken with FIFA Secretary General and he also considers the measure to be excessive."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 3, 2014
Bartomeu announces that Barça and RFEF will join forces to mount their defence against the FIFA ruling.— AS English (@English_AS) April 3, 2014
Corrigan broke down what Barcelona's statement means:
Barca seem to be accepting they broke the rules, want to get away with it & still blame unknown evildoers for pointing out what happened.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 3, 2014
Barcelona have been banned from transfer activity for the next two windows after breaching multiple FIFA rules with regard to the international registration of players under the age of 18.
FIFA released an official statement confirming a hefty punishment after investigating Barcelona's use of minors between 2009 and 2013. Any transfer involving a youngster must pass through the Players’ Status Committee, who deem whether the move is "contrary to the best interests of the player as a minor."
Barcelona appear to have repeatedly breached this process, as detailed in FIFA's release:
With regard to the case in question, FC Barcelona has been found to be in breach of art. 19 of the Regulations in the case of ten minor players and to have committed several other concurrent infringements in the context of other players, including under Annexe 2 of the Regulations.
The Disciplinary Committee regarded the infringements as serious and decided to sanction the club with a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, together with a fine of CHF 450,000. Additionally, the club was granted a period of 90 days in which to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned.
Barcelona released a lengthy statement on the situation:
Dermot Corrigan of ESPN breaks down Barcelona's response to the allegations:
15 point Barca statement saying their youth signings ok, & they'll appeal transfer ban to FIFA & TAS if necessary: http://t.co/OJlTnPEDQE— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 2, 2014
AS.com weighs in on how the appeal process is expected to shake out:
Legal sources consulted by AS have insisted: “FIFA is punishing them because of article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, and the provision is closely controlled both by world football's governing body and the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport], which is where this case will end up. The provision was written with extreme care by the responsible individuals at both institutions, for which reason they will be inflexible, as has been their stance until now.”
The Spanish FA has also been fined alongside Barca's sanction, per Yahoo Eurosport:
BREAKING: Spanish Federation also fined by FIFA over Barcelona's transfer ban.— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) April 2, 2014
FIFA's decision ensures La Blaugrana cannot sign any players until the summer of 2015.
This means Gerardo Martino's plans to overhaul the side at the end of the season are now put on hold. Pilar Suarez of Goal.com recently confirmed the club have reached an agreement with Borussia Monchengladbach for the transfer of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, which may now fall through after FIFA's judgement.
Pepe Reina was also considered a useful replacement for Victor Valdes, who is known to be leaving at the end of the season, per Alex Richards of the Mirror, but the Liverpool stopper's route to the Camp Nou is now blocked, summed up by Sachin Nakrani of The Guardian:
Pepe Reina's dream move to Barcelona goes up in smoke again. Gutted for the fella.— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) April 2, 2014
Martino is desperately in need of a new centre-back, but he will have to make do with players such as Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra. Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels rejected suggestions he could be on his way to Spain back in October, per Thomas Zocher of Sky Sports, and will now be off the radar for a year.
The recently agreed deal for Alen Halilovic, confirmed by Rik Sharma of the Daily Mail, also comes into jeopardy.
And Barca's ban may bring Manchester City a moment of relief after Manuel Pellegrini was recently forced to rubbish claims that Sergio Aguero could link up with Martino, per Hannah Duncan of the Metro.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time Barcelona have faced major punishment for their missteps.
Sandro Rosell was recently forced to quit as president after it was alleged that unannounced funds had been spent during the deal to land Neymar, reported by Forbes. Lionel Messi also appeared in court during October as part of a tax investigation fraud, noted by BBC News.
It is perhaps important to remember there is precedent for transfer bans to be overturned, tweeted by Yahoo Eurosport:
REMINDER: Chelsea were hit with a two-window transfer ban by FIFA in 2010, but won appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) April 2, 2014
Rob Harris of The Associated Press also offers Barca hope:
Court of Arbitration for Sport could halt Barca's 2-window transfer ban during any appeal. Would allow them to strengthen in summer at least— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) April 2, 2014
A summer of potentially exciting transfer activity and speculation is likely to descend into chaos. Barcelona's plans to strengthen are currently rendered obsolete; by the time the club can do business, many of their targets will have settled elsewhere.