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FIFA sends clear message by handing transfer ban to Barcelona

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The Canadian Press
4/4/2014 12:07:02 PM
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MADRID, Spain -- FIFA's decision to slap Barcelona with a transfer ban is a clear message to Europe's top clubs to follow its regulations when signing international youth players.

The governing body of world football banned the Spanish champions from any activity in the next two transfer windows for breaching international regulations in signing up to 10 youth players.

Specialist Spanish sports lawyers contacted by The Associated Press on Friday said it was a complicated case in which Barcelona's chances of prevailing on appeal were slim, although the message may already have been sent.

"This is a very difficult case and it's going to be very complicated for Barcelona to win it," Jose Lasa Azpeitia of Laffer Abogados said. "FIFA is showing it's not afraid to go after you regardless of how big an institution you are."

Barcelona labelled itself a "victim of a grave injustice" and has staunchly proclaimed it will defend its La Masia youth system, which has produced such players as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.

Rodrigo Arias Grillo of Sportia Law called the ban a "landmark case" in dealing with international regulations over youth player movement.

"The situation is very serious. It's a knock on the door for clubs that have sports models-infrastructures that deal with youth. The message is that no one is beyond their regulations," Arias Grillo told the AP.

"It touches on the grassroots of high profile clubs, which is very interesting. The impact of this will be seen in the way elite teams manage their grassroots development and associations with other countries."

The two lawyers agree that Barcelona's hopes of reversing the ban are slim, although Lasa Azpeitia pointed to a case involving French club Bordeaux that could provide precedent.

The Court for Arbitration of Sport sided with Bordeaux after FIFA denied the license of Argentine teenager Valentin Vada, who held an Italian passport but was never registered with the Italian federation when he moved from South America to France. It took two years for Vada to officially join Bordeaux, in January 2013.

"To have general rules is not necessarily good -- every case can be evaluated by different circumstances," Arias said. "You can have a general system for regulating international transfers but each situation, on a case-by-case basis, has to be well examined."

Barcelona has been marred by off-field problems since its signed Brazil striker Neymar last year. Neymar's transfer led to president Sandro Rosell's resignation, tax fraud charges against the club and a pay-off of more than 13.55 million euros ($18.6 million) to Spanish tax authorities.

Barcelona's response to the charges -- which could hamper their planning for next season when it needs a new goalkeeper and defender -- makes sense, guilty or not.

"Everyone is acting how they need to. They are defending La Masia, which is their model," Lasa Azpeitia said. "Barca is protecting the kids, educating them and not exploiting them. This is the model they are famous for."

Lionel Messi (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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