There were whispers, there always are. If Barcelona were doing it, well surely they couldn’t be the only one and so the Spanish Press started to look at other clubs. Eventually they came up with a figure: One. One club and it was the League’s smallest, Eibar! There was only one club in Spain’s top flight that had no underage foreign kids in their ranks.
Just the one club that was safe from FIFA and its investigation, the rest weren’t and football’s governing body was sniffing around. Barca had been caught and they didn’t even try to deny it but nobody believed that it would stop there. FIFA had said they were looking at more cases and this week it was announced that they are getting ready to pounce.
“We are not in a position to comment on any proceedings that are ongoing. No further information can be provided for the time-being,” a FIFA spokesperson was quoted as saying when they were asked about the rumours that started to circulate this week.
The story came from Cadena Ser and then Cope and it was said that FIFA was about to hand out transfer bans to Real Madrid and city rivals, Atletico. In January this year, Real Madrid announced that FIFA had contacted them about some discrepancies in their paperwork. They were given a list of players and asked to provide more information about them. Real Madrid did so and also released a statement.
In the statement the club said that they had been asked about 51 players. It then went on to give more details such as that 23 of the players that FIFA were looking at had joined Real Madrid from other Spanish clubs, six were over 18 when they signed for the club, one player appears twice on the list and that there were two players who were on the list but don’t and have never belonged to the club. It was said that with that, the club believed the case was closed. Many believe they knew it wasn’t and foresaw a potential storm on the horizon and that was the reason for its heavy spending this winter.
Los Blancos have spent over €51m in the past four months. Danilo was the biggest signing and agreed to join the club from Porto just a few weeks ago. Martin Odegaard was the kid that everyone wanted and in the end he opted for Santiago Bernabeu. Marco Asensio was signed from Mallorca and sent back there on loan. Only Lucas Silva has played any first team football for Carlo Ancelotti. The Brazilian was well sought after and Real Madrid pulled out all the stops to get him. But the question that was constantly being asked was, why now? Why not wait until the summer?
It isn’t totally out of the ordinary for Real Madrid to sign players in the winter window, nor sign them before the season ends but, and especially in the case of Danilo, they normally prefer to do their deals in the summer when they can parade them around the Bernabeu and get plenty of Press. It has been suggested that they knew the ban was coming and after seeing Barca lose their appeal, decided to sign as many players as they could.
It is not official but it is believed the FIFA ban would prevent them from bringing in players for two transfer windows and that would mean no new players until summer 2016. The club may try and appeal and hope to get some more reinforcements in, should they get a ban, but it has been rumoured that they may just accept their fate, although officially they continue to proclaim their innocence. But while Real Madrid have been said to getting ready for the storm, Atletico are claiming that they didn’t even know one was coming.
“We have not received any notification by FIFA or by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) regarding the reports that are circulating in the Spanish media,” an Atletico spokesperson said. “We want to state that we have cooperated with FIFA at all times. We believe we have followed the correct steps when it comes to licencing under age players as we have followed the guidelines of the RFEF and the Madrid Football Federation just as FIFA stipulates in order for licences to be approved.”
Unlike Real Madrid, Atletico just brought in Fernando Torres during the winter break on a permanent basis. They do have some players on loan but many are not believed to have a long-term future at the club. Los Rojiblancos are still heavily in debt so for the club’s accountants a transfer ban may be a blessing in disguise but with Diego Simeone wanting to constantly bring the club forward, they may struggle to work within their means. Failure to keep up with Barca and Real Madrid may see players and even Simeone rethink their future at the club and that would be a disaster.
There may be a saviour though. The RFEF President, Angel Maria Villar, has promised to speak to his friend at FIFA, Sepp Blatter, and fight for the Spanish cause. Villar may see this as an opportunity to keep control of the League and so will fight tooth and nail for the clubs.
The LFP are trying to negotiate a new TV broadcasting deal, one which would be similar to that of the Premier League. The new proposed deal would see the Spanish FA lose a percentage of its allocation from TV income and also its control over the timetabling of games. Many would be happy about the last fact. It is seen as the first steps of the LFP taking a bigger hold of the game with the RFEF being reduced to eventual bystanders. This is something the FA are determined to prevent. If Villar were to be successful and stop any potential bans, the Spanish FA would have the high ground over the LFP and may retain its control and money.
But, right now all this is just speculation and rumour. Until FIFA officially announce something, we are all playing a guessing game. That hasn’t stopped many in Spain from being angry with FIFA and Blatter. Some feel betrayed as they said that Spain supported the Qatar World Cup and has defended Blatter on numerous occasions and feel that he should be looking out for his friends, even if that means turning a blind eye to illegal activity.
Right now, Real Madrid and Atletico play the waiting game and as they do so, more clubs are mentioned as facing possible bans. The following months will be an anxious time for many fans as they wait to see if their club falls under FIFA’S gaze. At least Eibar fans can sleep soundly.