Transfer ban? What transfer ban?
Has there ever been a more farcical punishment than that metered out to FC Barcelona by FIFA? From what we have seen since the ban has been in force, it's barely worth the paper that it has been written on.
The ban was put in place before last summer's transfer window, yet allowing an appeal from the club saw Barca able to sign Luis Suarez, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Thomas Vermaelen, Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu and Douglas.
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If that wasn't preposterous enough, because of a loophole in the ban Barca have been able to sign players in the current window, albeit those signings are not able to play until January 2016.
It's precisely that loophole that saw Aleix Vidal arrive from Sevilla firstly, with the capture of Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid following hot on his heels. €50 million+ worth of talent. Done and dusted.
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FIFA as an organisation lost all credibility well before the ban was put in place, but how can any football club even begin to take them seriously now? Barca's opponents across Europe were no doubt rubbing their hands together at the possibility of the Catalans not being able to sign anyone for 18 months.
However, allowing the "super seven" to be purchased this time last year was a huge factor in Barcelona's treble winning season. Bravo and ter Stegen combined to set a new club record of clean sheets in a season, with the Chilean going on to win the Zamora trophy for least goals conceded in La Liga.
Suarez, once he found his mojo, tore just about every opposing team apart and his was a worthy contribution to the 122 goals that Barca's front three scored. Another club record, and this one a European record for the trio also.
It's little wonder then that the rest of European football are scratching their heads at the perceived injustice of it all. Barca are, for all intents and purposes, laughing in the faces of the opposition and still hoovering up the best talent on offer.
What's almost as incredulous is that players are willing to sign for the Catalans knowing that they can't even play for the best part of six months. Half a year spent on the sidelines when they could be ripping it up elsewhere in La Liga or the Premier League.
Such is the pull of the only team in history to do the double treble it would seem. Although just as bizarrely in Turan's case, if Barcelona's new president doesn't want him after being elected on July 18, he has until the 20th to sell him back to Atleti. Yes really!
FIFA themselves have of course set a very dangerous precedent. There have been rumours floating around that Real Madrid are one of two or three other teams that have fallen foul of the FIFA's guidelines on young players in the same manner that Barcelona were caught out.
Slap on the wrist
Quite obviously, the same courtesies that were extended to the Catalans will need to be given to Los Blancos and others. The reality is that it really isn't a punishment at all. A slap on the wrist at best.
If this is the benchmark, then it stands to reason that most other clubs are likely to follow suit in the future.
As long as they already have enough experienced exponents in their ranks at the time, where's the harm in a little underhand dealing if it means that a club can assure themselves of the services of the best young players that each continent has to offer.
It's remarkably short-sighted, and people still wonder why the game is in such a state at the highest levels.
Football fans, do you agree that Barcelona's 'ban' has been ridiculously enforcer? Let us know what you think in the comments box below.
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