As LLL’s expansive legal department has noted before, the defence Barcelona put up against charges brought by FIFA in relation to the ages of those attending La Masia were always spectacularly optimistic.
“It’s not fair” along with “But we're special!” were once again the cunning strategies against the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled in favour of upholding the original punishment that sees the club banned from signing players for the next two transfer windows. Bad news for Barça, great news for pretend full-back Douglas, who will still be able to hang about picking up a wage, with every pair of legs needed for the next year to man Barcelona’s pump of destiny.
Naturally, the institution itself was not at all happy about the verdict, releasing a statement that was a little muddled. It switched between blaming errors the club “might have committed” on confusion between FIFA regulations and Spanish legislation, and a stated “conviction that [the club] was acting correctly”. Clear as mud.
Club president Josep Bartomeu complained that a great injustice had been committed against “Barcelona, all the children and families impacted by this resolution, the members of our club and also for the world of football in general”. A segment of that final group who will be particularly hard hit by CAS are those who happen to be football agents working in the Brazilian market, and now won't have a tuppence to rub together for the next 12 months.
A terse statement put out by the Spanish Football League also trod the same outraged path, recognising that it is important to protect minors from exploitation by academies and that mistakes were made by Barcelona, but hey, it’s not fair.
Shock shock, horror horror
There does seem to be a genuine sense of shock in the Barcelona world about the judgement from CAS, with a full expectation that FIFA’s punishment would have been reversed, despite the dangers of the CAS being blasted to smithereens by a Doom Ray for defying football’s infallible governing body.
“Although the club recognised errors in its management, to leave it unable to sign for a whole year is a true abuse of power on the part of FIFA,” writes J.M Artells in Mundo Deportivo. “Blatter is not in position to give lessons in ethics to anyone,” fumes the writer, taking the two-wrongs-make-a-right approach to the pickle that Barcelona have found themselves in.
The ire follows the normal path walked whenever an external body such as UEFA happens to set rules and then apply them to a Spanish club, such as refusing to allow teams like Mallorca and Málaga into the Europa League in the past for owing money to other clubs for unpaid transfer fees.
Unfortunately for many La Liga clubs and its governing bodies, all the financial nonsense and jiggery-pokery that is permitted within Spain’s borders can have consequences abroad. Unless it involves old training grounds being bought by the city council at an overinflated price to allow a new complex to be built and a few superstars to be signed along the way. By way of random example.
Beating the ban
Although a year away from the transfer market sounds a very long time indeed, LLL likes to be a little optimistic and say that matters aren’t so glum for Barcelona. The club chose to not sign any proper centre-backs when it had the freedom to do so and the side is not exactly short of attacking talent. The problem for Luis Enrique at the moment is to make use of the players he has got already, rather than throwing more into the equation.
The real losers with this are the writers of Sport and Mundo Deportivo, the two daily papers dedicated to all things Barça. It's these poor saps who are going to have to spend quite some time hyping up signings which may not take place until summer 2016, with winter moves more of a rarity. These souls are the ones that will suffer the most as Barça sits on FIFA’s giant naughty step for the next 12 months.