Following the shocking news that FC Barcelona have received a substantial fine as well as a two-window transfer ban over alleged violations of FIFA's policy of signing under-aged players, Twitter exploded with reaction.
FIFA released a statement on Barcelona's punishment, while also implicating and fining the Spanish FA:
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.
With regard to the RFEF, the Disciplinary Committee determined that the association had also violated art. 19 of the Regulations and other provisions in the context of the transfer and first registration of certain minor players. In this respect, the RFEF was sanctioned with a fine of CHF 500,000 and granted a period of one year in which to regularise their regulatory framework and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors in football.
Unsurprisingly, the initial reaction on social media was one of shock. BeIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri put the significance of the news in perspective:
Barcelona ban is sport news of 2014 so far. It's more than massive— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 2, 2014
RealMadrid TV's Phil Kitromilides took the news a little lighter (for obvious reasons) while explaining such a ban couldn't have come at a worse time for the club:
Good job Barcelona aren't in desperate need of a centre back and a goalkeeper...oh wait...— Phil Kitromilides (@PhilKitro) April 2, 2014
As reported by ESPN, both Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol will be leaving the club at the end of this season, and with Valdes currently sidelined by injury, fans are getting their first taste of what life without the club legend will be like. Jose Manuel Pinto is the current starter in goal, and while he is by no means a bad player, the difference in quality is visible.
Similarly, Puyol has been a rock for the Barcelona defence for years now, and his departure will leave the team with a gaping hole in the centre of the back line that will now need to be filled internally.
Neymar has struggled somewhat in his first season with La Blaugrana, and the Brazilian striker had seen his role somewhat diminished with the emergence of Pedro. While Neymar is supremely talented, there was always the possibility of Barcelona making a transfer move to add a bit of competition for the Brazilian international.
Of course, it didn't take long for the first jokes to pop up left and right. Football Funnys released this beauty:
Pepe and Ronaldo react to the news Barcelona can't sign any players for 2 transfer windows! pic.twitter.com/Sb2DJT1PI7— Football Funnys (@FootballFunnys) April 2, 2014
Palmeri got in on the act:
Hey Barcelona, that UNICEF sponsorship went bit too far...— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 2, 2014
The Daily Telegraph's Matt Law also couldn't help himself:
The Barcelona transfer ban is a major blow for Nicklas Bendtner. #prayforbendtner— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) April 2, 2014
And then there was this one, courtesy of The Bearded Genius:
"Now about that new contract..." pic.twitter.com/3XMecnxX7e— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) April 2, 2014
Amidst all the joking, several pundits spoke on a more serious tone. The Mirror's John Cross seems to think some of the shine the club had built up in recent years might have come off in a matter of minutes:
Can we all now please stop holding up Barcelona as some sort of heavenly super club. They've broken the rules and been banned #morethanaclub— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) April 2, 2014
Sachin Nakrani believes the ban could be very bad news for one player in particular:
Pepe Reina's dream move to Barcelona goes up in smoke again. Gutted for the fella.— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) April 2, 2014
Pepe Reina has enjoyed a solid season on loan at Napoli, and with Simon Mignolet solidifying himself as the unquestioned No. 1 at Liverpool, the stopper could potentially have joined the Catalan giants as a replacement for Valdes. Even in a backup role, Barcelona could have been a logical next step in Reina's career.
In the age of big-money clubs and record-breaking player signings, Barcelona's youth setup and the constant production of the La Masia academy was seen as an alternative way of building a successful club, and an example for other clubs to look up to.
As much as this ban will hurt on a competitive level, the biggest blow will no doubt be the one to the club's image. This is a very dark day in Barcelona's history, and the ban will feed fans of rival clubs such as Real Madrid and Chelsea for weeks to come.
Cules are known to be some of the most loyal fans in all of football, and the club will need its fans to unite behind the team's colours in these troubling times.