Was this the gift all Barcelona fans feared this Christmas?

Was this the gift all Barcelona fans feared this Christmas?

Christmas often provides a period of respite for our continental neighbours, a brief hiatus and a time for clubs across Europe to take stock and evaluate their seasons to date. But for those at Barcelona this though will have been far from the season of festive cheer.

The Catalan giants were today rocked with the news that their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAC) had been rejected, thus leaving the club facing the ignominy of a two window transfer ban commencing next month. The Liga BBVA outfit had turned to the CAC this August following FIFA’s decision to sanction the club for its ‘illegal transfer of minors’:

“The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed the appeal filed by FC Barcelona against the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) regarding the decision issued by the FIFA appeals committee on 19 August 2014,” a statement from CAS read.

“In such decision, the Spanish football club was sanctioned with a transfer ban for two periods, a fine of CHF 450,000 and a reprimand after it was found to have infringed the FIFA regulations with respect to the registration of a number of minor players.”

Barcelona though were swift in their riposte today:

“FC Barcelona wishes to state, with all due respect for the sports authorities, that it totally disagrees with the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced today to confirm the sanction originally imposed by FIFA as a consequence of the alleged breach of regulations on the international transfer of minor footballers.”

“The errors that the club might have committed, and which have been recognised and argued before the corresponding authorities, are, in all cases, of an administrative nature and to a large extent have been caused by the existing conflict between the FIFA regulations and Spanish legislation, along with the club’s conviction that it was acting correctly.”

Barcelona are accused, and have subsequently been found guilty of the illegally signing and making of approaches to players under the age of 18. The current FIFA rules dictate that under 18’s cannot move to a club in a different country unless the meet one of the following qualifying criteria:

-Movement from and to another nation in the European Union or European Economic Area

-Parents have moved for non-footballing reasons

-Living already within 100km of the club

FIFA were unable to disclose the identities of the players in question, but it does relate to registration of several players between 2009 and 2013.

A season to be jolly for Los Blancos?

What today’s ruling effectively does is to hand the initiative, if it hadn’t been already, to Real Madrid.

Top-level football is a progressive business, and the impact of an embargo on a club like Barcelona is potentially crippling. Unlike many of Europe’s other top clubs, Barcelona find themselves woefully ill equipped to combat the threat posed by a transfer ban. The Blaugrana are in the midst of transition, from the Guardiola golden era to a new beginning under Luis Enrique. This has been far from a painless revolution and despite boasting one of the most intimidating front lines in world football; the Barcelona squad seems to be wholly inadequate when compared to many of the other top European outfits.

Whether they expected the appeal to succeed or not, Barcelona’s high brass should take the brunt of the blame for the current situation. Andoni Zubizarreta’s panicked reshuffling of his pack has hardly helped either, with the likes of Thomas Vermaelen, Jeremy Mathieu and Douglas proving largely ineffective in rejuvenating an ageing core, whilst many of the clubs younger acquisitions have developed at a slower than envisaged pace.

Fans may well have been blinded by the fervour created by Luis Suarez’s arrival, but in all honesty this has done little to alleviate the clear structural issues that have existed for a while now. In the upcoming months the question will be begged as to why an effective replacement to Xavi wasn’t sought, or as to why a future captain and leader wasn’t found to anchor the defence?

European competition is too fierce to allow these weaknesses to go unpunished, and today’s ruling simply makes the Catalan club defenceless in the face of these threats.

Whilst Los Blancos may well be sipping champagne come New Years, expect the mood in Catalunya to be a slightly more sombre one.