Despite the ongoing chaos that surrounds FIFA, the governing body’s wheels are apparently very much still in motion as they handed down transfer bands to two clubs this week. Spanish giants Real Madrid and their city rivals Atletico Madrid have been punished for what FIFA has deemed as irregularities regarding the signing of several under 18 players in the last few years. Both clubs have now been banned from registering players in the next two transfer windows, effectively curtailing their ability to sign new players. Ironically it is the same punishment that FIFA handed down to Barcelona in April 2014, one that the Catalan club fought for months with no eventual success.
In all three cases, FIFA have acted after an apparent breach of the rules around the transfer of minors. FIFA rules state that international transfers are only permitted for players over the age of 18 unless the player in question meets one of three qualifying criteria – Under-18s can move to a club in a different country if their parents move there for non-footballing reasons, if they are from another nation within the European Union or European Economic Area and aged between 16 and 18, or if they live within 100km of the club. A FIFA led investigation into the two Madrid clubs found several examples of minors being signed up without any of the three criteria being met – something that Real Madrid in particular have taken exception with. Real director Jose Angel Sanchez blasted the ban calling it absolutely unjustified and totally unexpected, confirming that Real will appeal the ruling. Atletico as yet has made no such promise.
Those appeals process could however take months, much as it did with Barcelona leaving Real and Atletico with a decision to make – to buy or not to buy during this current window. The opportunity for both clubs to go out and buy players now is there given that the bans will start at the next transfer window in the summer, giving them two weeks to strengthen their squads ahead of the ban coming into effect. Given Barcelona’s failure to have a similar ban lifted on appeal only adds weight to the argument that the Madrid clubs should kick their current transfer activity into overdrive. If the bans are held up, both clubs will still be able to purchase players (much like Barcelona did with Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal) but they will not be able to play them until they can be registered when the ban is lifted.
For Real Madrid, the need to go out and purchase 5-6 players in a rush is not there given the current strength of their existing first team and the wealth of talent residing in their reserve sides. That said, they might still make a few moves for players they have highlighted as essential given that those players could be snapped up by other sides as Real rides out its ban. Top of their list is the British based trio of David De Gea (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham) and John Stones (Everton). All three have growing reputations in the game and it’s inevitable that they will depart from their current sides in the near future. Real would have to spend heavily (roughly 125 million Euros) to secure their services ahead of others but this has never been a problem for Real in the past. They could also finance the moves by selling one of Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez or Gareth Bale. Rumours of unrest and a desire to test out new pastures have circled the trio of late but to date Real have been reluctant to let them leave. However the possibility of losing them during a transfer ban and not being able to replace them may speed up a decision which president Florentino Perez is not ready to make.
For Atletico, the situation is slightly different with the Rojiblancos not quite in the same financial situation as their neighbours. The surprise 2013-2014 La Liga champions run a tighter ship in terms of transfers but have bought well bringing in a talented batch of young players who now make up the nucleus of Diego Simeone’s side. All of those deals have been achieved by the development and then subsequent sale of players to foreign clubs (Falcao to Monaco, Costa to Chelsea etc), which means that Atletico are in good shape if such a ban was handed down. They still however need a few pieces to compete the puzzle with the forward line in particular a concern. Simeone may invest in a young striker to see Atletico through to the end of the ban but that is still to be confirmed. More importantly for the coach is to hold on to the players he has especially French star Antonie Greizmann who has attracted interest from England and Germany in recent months. A strong performance at this summers Euros may encourage clubs to match Greizmann’s buy out clause leaving Simeone in a difficult situation, unable to replace a crucial part of his team. That is of course if the Argentine is still at the club come the summer with Chelsea circling following the sacking of Jose Mourinho. Simeone may feel that under a transfer ban he cannot improve the squad enough to keep it competitive therefore undermining his ability to be successful which is the very thing that drives him.
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