News of the 14-month transfer ban imposed on Barcelona by FIFA will have been welcomed on the corridors at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium, as well as those at other top European clubs. Barcelona, one of the best club sides in the world, will be destabilised by the ban, especially given some of the improvements they desperately need to make this summer in order to patch up a squad that was set to let key players leave.
Goalkeeper Victor Valdes' contract expires this summer, with Barcelona's move for £10 million-rated Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Borussia Monchengladbach, the man earmarked as his replacement, now in serious doubt, as his agent explained to SportBild (h/t Goal.com's Mark Doyle).
They were also expected to move for Dinamo Zagreb's 17-year-old wonder kid Alen Halilovic, dubbed "the new Messi," but that transfer is now also in jeopardy.
With Carles Puyol also expected to leave, the four-time European Cup winners were thought to be in the market for a top-class centre-back, an area City are also expected to strengthen. With one less club to compete with for the transfer of a defender, City's chances of attracting a world-class player have surely increased.
The ban relates to Barcelona signing 10 minor players and committing "several other concurrent infringements," per FIFA's statement. European players under the age of 18 can only be transferred between countries in the EU or whose borders are less than 50 km from a player's home.
The statement continued:
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...
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 450,000 [Swiss francs]. Additionally, the club was granted a period of 90 days in which to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned.
If the sanction is upheld in the strictest possible terms, which has been doubted by some given the way in which Chelsea's ban was overturned in 2010, then Barcelona will suffer hugely in the short term.
The problem Barcelona face in their appeal is their charges are far more serious than Chelsea's, who were initially punished for inducing Gael Kakuta to break his contract with Lens. The two clubs eventually found a satisfactory agreement and Chelsea's transfer embargo lifted (via BBC Sport).
It seems unlikely Barcelona will find it quite so easy to wriggle out.
City's quest to become a major European force will be aided by the news. They are desperate to find a quality centre-back to partner Vincent Kompany, and the news that Barcelona will no longer be competing with them for one is positive.
Prices for a centre-half look set to be inflated anyway given City, Manchester United and Inter Milan, among others, will all be chasing one this summer, so removing Barcelona from the equation helps in that regard.
And with City desperate to become a major European force, Barcelona being hindered is certainly welcome news. Barcelona knocked City out of this season's Champions League last-16 stage, with little between the clubs in both legs when the two teams had 11 players on the pitch.
If City can now steal a march on the Catalan giants and make the signings they need to strengthen this summer, they could surpass them. City have a core of world-class players, and with the right reinforcements could move into the top tier of European sides this summer.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.