Barcelona's president has defended his club's policy of bringing in young youth talent, a day after FIFA banned the club from signing new players until the summer of 2015, citing rule breaches when bringing in minors.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeuon Thursday said the club would challenge FIFA's 14-month transfer ban and has claimed the club are "victims of a grave injustice."
The Catalans were hit with the punishment from world football's governing body for alleged rule breaches "relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18."
It centers around transfers between 2009 and 2013 of 10 under-age players and "other concurrent infringements in the context of other players," FIFA's statement read.
The club confirmed it sent detailed information to FIFA in February 2013 relating to transfers for South Korea's Lee Seung Woo, Paik Seung-Ho and Jang Gyeolhee, Theo Chendri of France, Nigerian-Dutchman Bobby Adekanye and Patrice Sousia of Cameroon.
The transfers of international U-18 players can only go through if they have moved to the country for non-football reasons. Players are eligible for transfer within Europe between the ages of 16 and 18 if standards of living and education is provided.
The club's La Masia academy has been right at the heart of Barcelona's European success recently. But the Catalans have welcomed non-European imports, such as the three-time FIFA Ballon D'Or winner Lionel Messi who has lived in Spain since 2000.
But Bartomeu rejected suggestions of any wrongdoing and said the club had been singled out by FIFA.
"We're victims of a grave injustice," he told a press conference. "With this decision, FIFA is penalizing a model that has worked for 35 years, it is penalizing the club. Barca is a model to follow (...) we have no intention of changing our model."
"You can't touch our Masia," Bartomeu continued defiantly. "This model is what has allowed our club and its football to be the most successful in the last decade.
"It brings to mind the photo with the Ballon d'Or with Xavi, (Lionel) Messi and (Andres) Iniesta. FIFA know that we look after the kids in our system."
Barcelona will also be fined 450,000 Swiss francs ($509,000, 369,027 euros), but have confirmed their intention to appeal the decision.
This could have a damaging effect on the club's hopes to sign Borussia Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Dinamo Zagreb's Alen Halilovic. Ter Stegen has been linked with a move to Barcelona after Gladbach confirmed the signing of FC Basel's Yann Sommer to be his direct replacement.
But comments from the player's agent Gerd von Bruch suggest it would be unlikely for ter Stegen's to go through in the summer window. "As it stands right now - if I have interpreted FIFA's [Wednesday] statement correctly - then a summer transfer is out of question," his agent added.
FIFA has yet to clarify, specifically, whether the transfer could be completed when registrations are needed to be switched after the opening of the window on July 1, 2014. The governing body has suggested summer deals could still go through, should the German have already signed on the dotted line.
Bartomeu will seek a full investigation into who made the initial complaint against the club and he threatened the possibility of civic court action in a bid to lift the ban. "We are investigating documents. When we have proof, we'll act with total determination," he said.
It's not the first time Barcelona have been penalized in 2014 by the authorities. In February, the club was forced to pay 13.5 million euros ($18.6 million) to Spanish tax authorities relating to the transfer of Brazilian star Neymar from Santos.
rd/msh (AP, AFP, dpa)