Real & Atletico Madrid handed transfer bans

© Sergio Perez
Spanish giants Real Madrid and their city rivals Atletico have been banned from signing players for two transfer windows for breaching FIFA regulations related to buying players under the age of 18.

The ban, which applies only to registering new players and not on releasing players, will apply for the next two transfer windows – the summer 2016 and January 2017 windows. The ban does not apply to the current January 2016 transfer period.

The official FIFA statement reads:

"The Fifa Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned Spanish clubs Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid for breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.

The two clubs were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of minor players as well as other relevant provisions with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in competitions."

Additionally, Atletico and Real have been fined $900,000 and $360,000 respectively, as well as given a 90-day grace period to bring the registration status of all under-18 players at the clubs in line with FIFA regulations.

The two clubs have been under investigation since last year after FIFA began looking into the transfer of youth players between 2005 and 2014.

The ban on the Madrid clubs follows a similar ban handed to Spanish giants Barcelona in April 2014 for breaching FIFA regulations on registering under-18 players.

Barcelona appealed the decision, which led to a suspension of the ban while its case was heard. In the meantime, Barca were allowed to sign players in the summer 2014 transfer window. The appeal was subsequently rejected in August 2014 and the ban enforced for the January 2015 and summer 2015 transfer windows.

However, since the ban only prevented registration of new players but not their purchase, Barcelona signed Aleix Vidal (Sevilla) and Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid) in the summer of 2015. Both players were restricted to the training ground and club friendlies during the period of the ban, but made their debuts for the Catalan club earlier this month.

Like Barcelona, both Madrid clubs will be expected to appeal the decision, although they also have the rest of January to sign players to bolster their squads. As per FIFA regulations the ban will only apply "for two complete and consecutive transfer periods,” so the key for the Madrid clubs will be to evaluate if they can delay the appeal and hearing so that the final decision comes during the summer 2016 transfer window, which would allow them to continue to buy players this summer.

If an appeal is not forthcoming and the ban is enforced as planned, however, it could have huge ramifications that stretch far beyond Spain. It means the sides will need to be extremely active in the current January transfer window – during which they are allowed to sign players – in order to ensure they have the quality in their squads to see them through the period of the ban.

It will also mean players such as Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, who has been a long-term target for Real, may need to wait longer before a move to the Spanish capital.

It could also mean that clubs coveting Real stars such as Gareth Bale will need to turn their attentions elsewhere, as the Spanish side will surely be reluctant to sell players they will be unable to replace. 

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