It has not been the best of weeks for Barcelona. Whilst they are still very much the favourites to beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final, they conceded an away goal and it was the fourth time this season they had failed to beat Diego Simeone’s men. The players’ faces as they walked off at full-time said it all.
Less than 24 hours later things got a lot worse for the Catalan outfit as FIFA announced a 14 month ban on signing players. One thing that was very strange was the lack of gloating by rivals. Why were they holding their tongues?
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were extremely quiet and the reason was that AS had announced FIFA were also investigating them both. By now almost everyone in Spain is familiar with the rules and how Barca are believed to have broken them but the fact that FIFA are looking at more clubs in La Liga has fans very nervous indeed. On Twitter, various underage players at Real Madrid and Atletico have been mentioned as possible illegal signings but as yet there have been no confirmed cases.
Barca were investigated for over 12 months and so a sudden declaration from FIFA announcing a similar ban for La Liga’s other title contenders may not be on the horizon just yet but what if it were? Barca are planning to appeal their sanction but behind the scenes they are also looking at the possibility of having to go 14 months without reinforcements. What would happen at Santiago Bernabeu and Vicente Calderon if they were faced with a similar situation?
The simple fact is that Real Madrid may not really notice it that much. Los Blancos would like another striker but with goals coming from all over the pitch it isn’t an urgent requirement. They have lost Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira for large parts of this season and they have survived. Next year will be the second season for many players and looking at the example set by Luka Modric, fans can be very optimistic.
Down the road, things are a little different for city rivals Atletico Madrid. Upfront the club have a slight dependence on Diego Costa. The Brazilian is the target for many clubs this summer but Atleti have a habit of selling their top forward and coming back better from it. It isn’t in attack where they could have issues.
Thibaut Courtois is on loan and his future is still unclear. Any sudden ban would prevent him from resigning with Los Rojiblancos and could leave the club without a first choice goalkeeper. They have Sergio Asenjo on loan at Villarreal but the player would like to remain where he is and that would leave El Cholo with just Daniel Aranzubia on the books. The former Deportivo keeper will be 35 in September and has far from impressed when called upon this season.
A sudden may be unlikely but many expect the club to sign a decent back-up goalkeeper this summer in case they are found guilty by FIFA and face a similar sanction.
Right now the above is largely speculation. FIFA haven’t announced that they are actually investigating anyone but the AS article published on Wednesday has made a lot of people nervous.
Barca have announced that they are working with the Spanish FA to clear their name. What we might end up seeing is the likes of Real Madrid and Barca working together so both avoid punishment. This has some other fans worried as they expect that someone will be needed to make an example of and a club of lesser reputation may take the fall.
For now all we know is that Barca, who accept they have done wrong but believe they should be let off, are in the dock with the Spanish FA. Will more join them? Many expect so.