Barcelona received a major blow when their appeal against a two window transfer ban was rejected by FIFA.
The Catalans are taking the fight to CAS, in the hope it will be reduced to just one window, but it’s not looking good for them. As it stands, from September 1 they cannot work the transfer market until January 2016.
At least they got most of their short-term business out of the way – Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Thomas Vermaelen, Jeremy Mathieu and two goalkeepers (Marc Andre ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo) fill the obvious holes in the squad.
They will be fine for this season – but what about the next couple of years?
BARCA BOUGHT OVER £130M WORTH OF TALENT THIS SUMMER. SO WHY IS THIS BAN A PROBLEM?
Borussia Dortmund star Marco Reus, who was expected to move to the Camp Nou when his contract expires next summer, would not be able to join the club as predicted. He would be left in limbo as it is too early to arrange a ‘Bosman’ style transfer now.
Concerns also remain that they will not have long-term cover for Xavi, who can’t play on forever, while a top-class right-back remains a priority, with Dani Alves expected to leave and his replacemen Douglas Pereira pencilled in for next summer.
There is also the question of Real Madrid, with whom Barca are engaged in a Liga transfer market ‘arms race’. Would Los Merengues exploit this opportunity to hoard the world’s best players from January onwards? Could they use this as an opportunity to pull away from Barca?
WHAT CAN BARCA DO ABOUT THIS?
The ban doesn’t come into effect until January. So, bearing in mind Financial Fair Play rules, Barca can stockpile players for another 10 days.
Sao Paulo right-back Douglas Pereira – who like Reus was expected to arrive when his contract expired next year – is now tipped to join in the coming days, but the jury is out on him.
There is also a strong rumour linking the club with Atletico Madrid defensive midfielder Koke: he wouldn’t take Xavi’s place just yet, so could be loaned back to the Liga champions, according to SPORT in Spain.
Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus against Real Madrid during 2013/14 season
Reus is a touch more problematic though. The emergency deal to sign Douglas Pereira would not be too pricey; the German, meanwhile, is expected to fetch around £25m, even given his contract situation.
Barca can also keep players. The decisions to sell Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas could be rued by the club, even if their faces didn’t fit in the short term. Maybe they should have loaned them out instead, but – after the scandal of Neymar’s transfer – the club needed money.
This could mean Alex Song stays at Camp Nou, ditto mediocre defensive pair Marc Bartra and Martin Montoya. The horror! At least Gerard Deufelou, on loan at Sevilla, has long-term potential as a starter.
BUT WHAT ABOUT LA MASIA?
"Barcelona cannot accept in any way a decision which attacks the sprit of our Masia, an example in human, sporting and academic development, recognised around the world.”
Fans hold a banner at the Camp Nou asking FIFA not to touch La Masia (AFP)
Well it was Barca’s famous youth academy that got them into this mess, as they were signing underage foreign players ‘illegally’. However, there are some fine young talents from Spain, such as Sandro and Munir, who have been impressive for the B team, and in friendlies.
But those two are attackers – and Barca have Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, arguably the best frontline in world football. It is unlikely those youngsters would get a game, and it’s not like the existing trio are long in the tooth.
Herein lies the problem: La Masia tends to produce silky ball-players. A strong defensive player has not materialised since Gerard Pique, and even he had to leave the club to fully develop.
HOW WILL REAL MADRID RESPOND?
The thing about Real is that they almost always spend big in the summer. This season is no exception, with James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos – two of the best players at the World Cup – joining goalkeeper Keylor Navas at the Bernabeu. Angel Di Maria and Sami Khedira will probably leave, freeing up some budget for a big-name forward arrival.
But will Barca’s transfer ban change Real’s strategy? Probably not – they tend to operate in an alternate reality to their rivals, so the focus will probably be on building a more flexible unit than that which won the Champions League but failed in La Liga.
Reus - after being courted by Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Atletico Madrid - will move to Bayern Munich on a free; Douglas Pereira will arrive at Barca in the next week or so for around £7m; A purchase and loan-back deal for Koke will be discussed with Atletico but fails as Los Rojiblancos demand the full £48m buyout clause, knowing their suitors are desperate; Song is loaned out to Manchester United with a recall clause in case anyone gets injured; Bartra and Montoya continue their roles as bench warmers.
There is a caveat though – CAS could reduce Barca’s transfer ban to one window, which would leave them free to operate as usual next summer. Which would hardly be any punishment at all.
- Sports & Recreation
- Luis Suarez
- Marco Reus
- Thomas Vermaelen
- Atletico Madrid