The football world was stunned on Wednesday to hear the news that Barcelona, titans of the European game, have been banned from buying any new players for the next two transfer windows.
FIFA has imposed the remarkable punishment following breaches of rules over the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.
The governing body’s statement is frustratingly vague and mired in technical terms, and the intricacies of the punishment are not yet clear.
But what we really want to know is what this means for Barcelona’s status as one of the great club sides in football.
Here we outline five possible major implications of Wednesday’s huge news.
1. A keeper conundrum
Barcelona were ready to give Victor Valdes a big, emotional send-off this summer after the club’s most decorated keeper of all time expressed his intent to move to another club at the end of his contract. Valdes recently sustained a serious knee injury, leading many to think he had played his last game for Barcelona – but will the news that Barca are unable to sign a replacement force the club to approach Valdes with a big new contract to convince him to stay and help the club though this difficult time?
2. Are two ‘done deals’ really done?
It is no secret that Barcelona have agreed a deal to sign Borussia Moenchengladbach keeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen for around £10m in the summer, but today’s news puts that transfer in huge doubt. Have contracts been signed? And if so, are they now void? If Ter Stegen cannot join the club then the need for Valdes to stay is even more pressing. Only last week Barcelona announced the signing of 17-year-old ‘Croatian Messi’ Alen Halilovic for £1.8m from Dinamo Zagreb. Will he be permitted to complete the move?
3. Doubts in defence
Club captain Carles Puyol – a veteran of six Liga title wins, three Champions League triumphs and two Copa del Rey victories – announced in March that he would be leaving the club in the summer, along with Valdes. It was widely assumed Barcelona would be signing a new centre-back to replace him – Chelsea’s David Luiz is a long-term target – but that now seems impossible. With just Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano available as senior options come June, much responsibility will now be placed on the shoulders of Marc Bartra, who may or may not be ready for such a big step up in responsibility just yet.
4. An ageing squad
This summer was seen as a big chance for Barcelona to rejuvenate their squad, possibly under a new coach as Gerardo Martino has reputedly decided to leave. Barcelona have been searching around for a new striker for months and have also reportedly been monitoring long-term replacements for Xavi, who continues to be linked with a move to MLS. Dani Alves, 30, is also out of contract and has not been offered a new deal - at least not yet. A transfer ban of two windows in length means the playing staff will stagnate and the club will be prevented from from lowering the average age of the team unless they dip into the prolific Masia academy.
5. Can’t shift deadwood
If Barcelona had any hopes of getting rid of fringe team members such as Alex Song this summer, now they will have to think again. It is believed that the punishment announced by FIFA prevents the club from selling players as well as purchasing them, meaning the squad which finishes this season will also be in place at the end of next season.
What do you think? Will today’s news set Barcelona back a few seasons? Or do they have the quality in their youth ranks to paper over the cracks?
- Sports & Recreation
- Victor Valdes