With the 2014 summer transfer window closed, Barcelona’s transfer ban is in effect and the club will not be able to sign any new players till January 2016. With the fast start of academy players like Munir and Sandro combined with the summer signings and departure of numerous players, the club and some pundits claim the team will not be affected by the inability to sign new players and will be able to continue to contend for trophies. However, in football nothing is ever predictable and secure and as such the seriousness of the transfer ban needs to be understood.
First, despite the early promise of Munir, there is no guarantee that Munir or other young players in Barca’s system are long-term and viable options for the first team. Barcelona’s youth system is full of players with great potential but potential is just that, it is no indication of future success. For example, in just the past few years some Barcelona’s promising young players—Tello, Roberto, Bojan, etc. — have failed to make a lasting impression. Since the team will not be able to sign new players, at some point during the next year and a half, Barcelona—due to injuries, suspensions, or an overcrowded schedule—will have to turn to its younger players. If these young player fail to live up to expectations or flame out, so too may Barcelona.
Next, Barcelona clearly bought (and sold) this summer with the ban in mind. Including players leaving the club, there have been 24 changes to last year’s team. If Barcelona has bought the right players, then the club should be in good shape for the next year and a half. However, the club does not have the best record in signing players who in turn make a positive contribution to the team. In fact, it is not unusual for a summer signing to be the next summer’s big sale. With the team’s budget and competitiveness in competitions, transfer mistakes can be covered up. There is always money to buy another player and a star player who wants to win the Champions League. But for the next year and a half Barcelona does not have that advantage. If Suarez can’t fit in or Rakitic disturbs the midfield, or Ter Stegen and Bravo can’t play goalie the way the team needs, there will be no other option. This is the team Barcelona is stuck with and one bad signing can no longer be hidden.
Additionally, some of the summer signings were made to replace Barcelona stalwarts. Xavi will be gone soon and so too will Alves. These players and their skills helped turn Barcelona into a dominate team and arguably one of the greatest teams of all time. Their replacements will play in the shadow of Nou Camp favorites and as such will face the pressure of replacing greatness (and rightly or wrongly will be compared to them continuously). If these new signings falter or fail to deal with the comparisons, Barcelona will be left with holes it cannot attempt to fill till January 2016.
Not only does the transfer ban make it impossible for the club to replace players leaving and those who have failed, it also means Barcelona is unable to sign new stars and young, rising players. This will not only hurt the future of the club but will allow the club’s rivals to gain the upper hand domestically and in Europe. For the next two transfer windows, stars wishing to leave their club or young players who had break out seasons can no longer look at Barcelona. This means that for the next year and a half, Barcelona will lose out on the best available players. Further, it makes it easier for their rivals to sign them since they will no longer be negotiating against Barca, thus saving them money to use on other players. In essence, for the next year in a half, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and all top clubs against Europe will be able to refresh and strengthen their squad while the only thing changing in Barcelona will be the jersey design.
Finally, once the ban is over and Barcelona can sign players, clubs will know how desperate Barcelona will be to buy players to replenish the team. Barcelona may be in a rush to buy new players to make up for deficits on the team. Therefore, it is likely then that clubs and agents will demand astronomical fees since they know Barcelona can’t afford not to buy new players. Barcelona may be in place where they can’t say no and end up vastly overpaying for players. This could have a massive impact on the long-term financial strength of the team and hurt the club’s long-term future.
With a new coach, an adapted system, Messi off to a quick start, new players, and young academy players making an impact, there is a lot of optimism around Barcelona. If everything continues to go smoothly there is no reason not to expect Barcelona to win a few trophies this year. However, in football nothing ever goes smoothly and one of the main reasons teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid always win is their ability to buy to overcome mistakes and unexpected events (injuries, unhappy players, etc.). For the next year and a half, that advantage is gone for Barcelona. The consequences of the ban are not yet known but will undoubtedly be negative. The question remains how much of an impact will the ban end up having on the future of the club. If you trust the board of directors, the team is in great shape but if you look at everything that could go wrong, Barcelona’s future is anything but secured.