Earlier today Barcelona were given a 14-month transfer ban, encompassing the next two transfer windows and forbidding them from signing any new players. The ban centres on several players under the age of 18 who were illegally signed and played for the club between 2009 and 2013, while a fine of £340,000 was also enforced on the Catalan club.
While the monetary deduction will have little effect on a financial powerhouse such as Barcelona, the transfer embargo could have serious implications for a club that is heavily reliant on its core players. During their unprecedented run of success since the late noughties Barcelona’s backbone has been their excellent spine, including the likes of skipper Carlos Puyol, midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta plus the club’s jewel in the crown, Argentinian striker Lionel Messi. While Messi remains one of the best players in the world he has began to pick up more injury’s than usual this campaign, something that will bear watching as Barca will be unable to sign a replacement should the diminutive forward go down for a prolonged period of time.
Additionally the club will now have no choice but to hope the 34-year old Xavi ages gracefully over the next 12 months and stays injury free himself. Club captain Puyol has already announced his departure in the summer, and though he has played little of late it leaves Barca thin on the ground in terms of defensive depth. Goalkeeper Victor Valdes is also rumoured to be on the way out at the end of the season, however his recent knee injury could see him opt to stay for another year and help fill the massive void that would be left upon his departure.
Should any of these worst case scenarios occur Barca will have no choice but to look in the direction of their esteemed youth set up. The famed Barcelona academy has already produced the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and Messi, so manager Gerardo Martino will be hopeful that the next generation of stars is ready to be called upon should they be needed within the next calendar year.
Perhaps the most galling aspect of the ban for Barcelona will be the fact that they’ll have to sit and watch this summer while their arch rivals Real Madrid opt to undoubtedly spend money on top talent from Spain and across Europe. Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti will be licking his lips at the prospect of being able to cherry pick the top players in world football with little competition for their signature, while Real’s Madrid neighbours Athletico may find themselves more inclined to keep hold of top talents such as Diego Costa as opposed to cashing in on their surprising title assault during this campaign.
Make no mistake, Barcelona still possess one of the most talented starting eleven’s in European football. But their depth beyond that first choice line up is likely to take a hit as a number of veteran players move on or fail to tap into the fountain of youth. Their reliance on Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta will reach new heights, while Brazilian icon Neymar will be required to fulfill the undoubted potential that he possesses as both of Madrid’s leading clubs look to take advantage of FIFA’s surprisingly harsh sanctions.