Barcelona have been banned from signing players for next season after irregularities were found in their dealings at youth level by FIFA.
The club have been sanctioned for breaching rules in 10 signings between 2009 and 2013, with FIFA placing an embargo on Barca for the next two transfer windows.
Barca’s transfer dealings have come under huge scrutiny this season, with former president Sandro Rosell resigning after questions were raised over the close-season signing of Neymar.
The Brazilian officially moved to Camp Nou for €57.1million, though the striker’s former club Santos only received a fraction of that and now the signing of youngsters from abroad in recent years has landed the Spanish champions in more hot water.
A FIFA statement read: “The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol (RFEF) and Spanish club FC Barcelona for breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.
“The Disciplinary Committee regarded the infringements as serious and decided to sanction the club with a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, together with a fine of CHF 450,000 (€370,000).
“Additionally, the club was granted a period of 90 days in which to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned.”
The RFEF have been fined CHF 500,000 (€410,000) and granted a year in order to “regularise their regulatory framework and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors in football”.
Last week, Barca secured the signature of 17-year-old Croatia international Alen Halilovic, beating off reported interest from the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal.
That deal did not form part of FIFA’s investigation, but if a transfer embargo were to be upheld it would be a huge blow for the Catalan giants.
With fierce rivals Real Madrid likely to reinforce again in the close-season, as well as the likes of UEFA Champions League rivals and historic big-spenders Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, a ban on conducting any business could leave Barca trailing in the wake of other European super-powers.
An embargo could cause particular concern for Barca in defence, with goalkeeper Victor Valdes and centre-half Carles Puyol – two mainstays over the past decade – set to leave the club at the end of the season.
Valdes, who suffered a serious knee injury in last Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo, has been replaced by 38-year-old Jose Manuel Pinto for the time being, with Borussia Monchengladbach keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen widely reported to be lined up as his long-term successor.
Though Barca are yet to confirm any appeal, they may be boosted by the fact Chelsea had a similar sanction overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2010 after being hit with an 18-month embargo over the transfer of French midfielder Gael Kakuta.
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