Chelsea could be banned from signing players for a period of four transfer windows after the Premier League club was investigated for acquiring under-18 players, including former Blues striker Bertrand Traore, illegally.
FIFA has recommended the ban after leading an investigation that spanned three years, according to French source Mediapart (h/t Matt Hughes of The Times). The investigation, carried out by the Integrity and Compliance unit of world football's governing body, found the Blues had signed as many as 14 youth players illegally.
FIFA's investigation was prompted by Traore's move to Chelsea from Burkina Faso, before his 18th birthday.
Mediapart broke down how the penalties would be levied against the Blues: "FIFA's Integrity and Compliance unit have recommended that Chelsea should be banned from signing players for one transfer window for the Traoré signing, and three further transfer windows for 13 other offences, plus a fine of £45,000."
Traore's transfer became a focus of proceedings after FIFA found evidence he had played for Chelsea when he was as young as 16, appearing in a U18 match against London rivals Arsenal.
Further details showed Chelsea paid £155,000 to Traore's mother to earn a first-refusal on the player. This arrangement was supplemented by another payment of £13,000 made to AJE Bobo-Dioulasso, a club overseen by Traore's mother when her son was also on the books.
Chelsea are adjudged to have "acted in bad faith" by agreeing an option for four-and-a-half-years. This is a clear violation of FIFA rules prohibiting players under the age of 18 to be optioned for any longer than three years.
Ultimately, Traore was found to have played 25 matches for Chelsea at youth level, despite not being registered with the English Football Association, per Hughes.
Now 23, Traore helped Ajax reach the UEFA Europa League final during a productive loan spell in the 2016/17 campaign. He officially left the club to sign for Ligue 1 side Lyon on a five-year contract last summer.
If FIFA's recommendation becomes reality, Chelsea will face an uphill task remaining competitive in the Premier League and regaining status as a UEFA Champions League club.
Achieving both depends largely on keeping up with big-spending Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool. Not being able to match the outlay of that trio would soon leave Chelsea trailing during the next two years.
However, a ban may inadvertently force the Blues to finally begin leaning on what has been a deep and talented academy in recent seasons. Graduates such as midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek would see playing time increase exponentially if this ban goes through.