Barcelona are still reeling from the news that they have been handed a 14 month transfer embargo by FIFA. They have announced an appeal, but could this be turning into an annus mirabilis for Tata Martino’s team, and if so how will they cope with it?
Barcelona were always seen as being above the temptations that other teams succumbed to. They didn’t chase sponsorship, instead supporting Unicef on the front of their shirts. They weren’t interested in corporate Euros. The club was run by fans, and was famous for their spirit of fair play. They were, to coin their immortal phrase, more than a club. But has that changed for ever?
Three things have rocked their image. Their plans for Camp Nou development are centred upon building improved corporate facilities, rather than updating conditions for spectators.
And then, of course, there was the Neymar scandal that forced the resignation of club president Sandro Rossell. Tax avoidance isn’t something you would historically associate Barcelona with, but it’s a shadow that’s still looming over some of its biggest stars.
And now, the greatest problem of all. Barcelona have been found in breach of FIFA regulations governing the signing of international players under 18 years of age. Barcelona, in lodging their appeal, have insisted that they did not act illegally, but it beggars belief that Barca could have acted so flagrantly against the rules.
As it stands, Barca won’t be able to sign players until summer 2015. What impact will that have on them? The most obvious problem it throws up is in goal. Victor Valdes is expected to leave for Monaco in the summer. Barca had been linked with a number of keepers, especially Joe Hart of Manchester City. If the ban remains they will have to rely on the ponytailed Pinto. That’s not a thought to fill any Barca fan with confidence.
They will also be reluctant to sell any players, which means that the likes of Tello and Deulofeu won’t be allowed to cement moves to Liverpool and Everton next year? What’s the likely outcome? I expect the appeal to drag on until after the transfer window closes, allowing Barcelona to make signings after all this summer. But a damaged reputation can’t be so easily fixed. For the sake of this wonderful team, we hope that this is the last in a line of unwelcome news stories.