FIFA rejected Barcelona's appeal of their transfer ban Wednesday, leaving last season's La Liga runners-up unable to buy new players until January 2016 once the present transfer window closes.
BBC Sport reports that the ban affects the January 2015 window as well as the summer window for the start of the 2015-16 season. The ban, which relates to irregularities over Barcelona's registrations of young players in their academy, is perfectly right to have been upheld by the game's governing body, though Barcelona say they will take their fight to the Court of Arbitration for Sport:
Barcelona appeal rejected. Two windows of no signings (after this one closes).— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) August 20, 2014
In the meantime, though, Barcelona have been allowed to function in the market as normal during the appeal process this summer—and this has largely rendered the ban ineffective, if not entirely redundant.
The signings might not be £20 million ones, but that doesn't mean the players in question won't be worth that in the future. Barcelona were criticised and thus sanctioned after FIFA discovered that the club signed 10 youth players, under-18s signings at the time, in breach of international transfer regulations.
Along with Barcelona, the Spanish football association, the RFEF, were also sanctioned as a result of not stringently applying the rules, and both the RFEF and Barça received heavy fines and have been told to rectify their procedures in signing youngsters from afar.
Mi sueño es conocer el Camp Nou, nada más eso: pic.twitter.com/KAKhqBneER— Barcelona. (@PlanetaCule) August 16, 2014
That the signings do not immediately relate to the first-team environment does not matter in the slightest—Barcelona are mes que un club, after all. It's all part of the same system, the same identity, and if found guilty of breaking the rules set in place, then it is right they must face the sanctions placed upon them.
And that should go for every other side, too.
Knowing that they faced the ban, Barcelona have acted big in this window.
Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes were already known to be leaving and the back five have thus been bolstered by Claudio Bravo, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu.
Further forward, straight replacements were made with an out-in transfer merry-go-round featuring Cesc Fabregas and Ivan Rakitic, plus Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez. Add in the returning Rafinha and the inclusion this summer of the likes of Munir from the youth sides, and new boss Luis Enrique has been handed a pretty complete squad to mould back into title challengers.
Of course, there are still more than 10 days for the club to do further business if they wish.
Why It's Not Such a Big Deal
So why is the ban then ineffective? It's pretty straightforward: Doing business this summer has allowed the club to plan for the entire season and make signings accordingly, giving them a squad they believe can compete on all levels for La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies.
They could get injuries, sure, but they already know they can't sign anybody in January, so the entire squad depth is taken care of now, for the entire season.
Should Barcelona have been allowed to purchase players during the current transfer window while the appeal was ongoing?
And next year? OK, they can't bring in anybody new during the summer as things stand. But they no longer face a complete season of not being able to add new faces or strengthen key areas. Anywhere not up to scratch this time next campaign merely needs to see out late August to mid-December, four months, and then big additions can be made in the January window if required.
To think Barcelona won't already have those deals in the pipeline well in advance would be naive in the extreme.
Barcelona will eventually be punished in some regard, and even if CAS reduces the ban somehow, it's not likely to be in the form of less transfer windows in which they cannot operate. But the damage has already been done in rendering the suspension less essential than it might have been.
If anything else can be taken out of the situation for the average football fan, it might be that Barcelona aren't the governing bodies' favourites the way some make them out to be. Not seeing a reduction in this ban, nor in that of new signing Luis Suarez, should put an end to that conspiracy theory.