Will FIFA Bans Spark Madrid Led Transfer Frenzy?

Despite the ongoing chaos that surrounds FIFA, the governing body’s wheels are apparently very much still in motion as they handed down transfer bands to two clubs this week. Spanish giants Real Madrid and their city rivals Atletico Madrid have been punished for what FIFA has deemed as irregularities regarding the signing of several under 18 players in the last few years. Both clubs have now been banned from registering players in the next two transfer windows, effectively curtailing their ability to sign new players. Ironically it is the same punishment that FIFA handed down to Barcelona in April 2014, one that the Catalan club fought for months with no eventual success.


FIFA have handed bans to Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid for breaching transfer rules concerning minors (Image from FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

In all three cases, FIFA have acted after an apparent breach of the rules around the transfer of minors. FIFA rules state that international transfers are only permitted for players over the age of 18 unless the player in question meets one of three qualifying criteria – Under-18s can move to a club in a different country if their parents move there for non-footballing reasons, if they are from another nation within the European Union or European Economic Area and aged between 16 and 18, or if they live within 100km of the club. A FIFA led investigation into the two Madrid clubs found several examples of minors being signed up without any of the three criteria being met – something that Real Madrid in particular have taken exception with. Real director Jose Angel Sanchez blasted the ban calling it absolutely unjustified and totally unexpected, confirming that Real will appeal the ruling. Atletico as yet has made no such promise.

Real director Jose Angel Sanchez

Real Director Jose Angel Sanchez has confirmed the club will appeal the bans (Image from AFP)

Those appeals process could however take months, much as it did with Barcelona leaving Real and Atletico with a decision to make – to buy or not to buy during this current window. The opportunity for both clubs to go out and buy players now is there given that the bans will start at the next transfer window in the summer, giving them two weeks to strengthen their squads ahead of the ban coming into effect. Given Barcelona’s failure to have a similar ban lifted on appeal only adds weight to the argument that the Madrid clubs should kick their current transfer activity into overdrive. If the bans are held up, both clubs will still be able to purchase players (much like Barcelona did with Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal) but they will not be able to play them until they can be registered when the ban is lifted.

Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal

Barcelona signed Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal whilst under a registration ban but the duo couldn’t play until it was lifted this month (Image from Getty)

For Real Madrid, the need to go out and purchase 5-6 players in a rush is not there given the current strength of their existing first team and the wealth of talent residing in their reserve sides. That said, they might still make a few moves for players they have highlighted as essential given that those players could be snapped up by other sides as Real rides out its ban. Top of their list is the British based trio of David De Gea (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham) and John Stones (Everton). All three have growing reputations in the game and it’s inevitable that they will depart from their current sides in the near future. Real would have to spend heavily (roughly 125 million Euros) to secure their services ahead of others but this has never been a problem for Real in the past. They could also finance the moves by selling one of Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez or Gareth Bale. Rumours of unrest and a desire to test out new pastures have circled the trio of late but to date Real have been reluctant to let them leave. However the possibility of losing them during a transfer ban and not being able to replace them may speed up a decision which president Florentino Perez is not ready to make.

England U21 Training Session and Press Conference

Will Real make a move for England duo John Stones and Harry Kane this month? (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

For Atletico, the situation is slightly different with the Rojiblancos not quite in the same financial situation as their neighbours. The surprise 2013-2014 La Liga champions run a tighter ship in terms of transfers but have bought well bringing in a talented batch of young players who now make up the nucleus of Diego Simeone’s side. All of those deals have been achieved by the development and then subsequent sale of players to foreign clubs (Falcao to Monaco, Costa to Chelsea etc), which means that Atletico are in good shape if such a ban was handed down. They still however need a few pieces to compete the puzzle with the forward line in particular a concern. Simeone may invest in a young striker to see Atletico through to the end of the ban but that is still to be confirmed. More importantly for the coach is to hold on to the players he has especially French star Antonie Greizmann who has attracted interest from England and Germany in recent months. A strong performance at this summers Euros may encourage clubs to match Greizmann’s buy out clause leaving Simeone in a difficult situation, unable to replace a crucial part of his team. That is of course if the Argentine is still at the club come the summer with Chelsea circling following the sacking of Jose Mourinho. Simeone may feel that under a transfer ban he cannot improve the squad enough to keep it competitive therefore undermining his ability to be successful which is the very thing that drives him.

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Injury Robs World Cup Of Star Players

Falcao's knee injury has ruled him out of the World Cup (Image from AFP)He was given as long as possible but in the end it wasn’t enough. The devastating news broke across Colombia yesterday that star striker Radamel Falcao had not recovered enough from the knee injury he suffered in January and would therefore not be selected for their World Cup squad. It’s a massive blow to the South American hopefuls’ chances of winning the tournament and to Falcao himself who will have to wait another four years for his World Cup berth. At an emotional press conference, head coach Jose Pekerman admitted that he and his team had accepted defeat in the race to have Falcao fit in time for inclusion. Coverage of Falcao in training this past week had given the Colombian fans hope that their idol would be ready in time but after consulting with medical experts, it was felt that he was too much of a risk to be in the squad.

A dejected Falcao accepts defeat  (Image from Getty)

A dejected Falcao accepts defeat
(Image from Getty)

Pekerman called the decision the saddest day in his coaching career but did praise the player for doing everything possible to be fit in time to play. With a group consisting of Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan, qualification to the knock out rounds is a realistic goal for Colombia even without Falcao in the starting lineup. Many believed that Pekerman would select Falcao anyway and give him until the knockout rounds in late June to recovery but the decision to leave him out all together suggests that even this wouldn’t give Falcao enough time. The devastated Monaco hitman told reporters that he was in good shape but he was conscious that he needed more time and didn’t want to deny a fully fit teammate a spot in the squad. He also spoke of the slight concern that taking part would only damage his recovery, a sentiment echoed by his former manager at Atletico Madrid Diego Simeone who recommended recovery first to protect his career in the long term.

Rossi has reacted angrily to suggestions he isn't ready  (Image from PA)

Rossi has reacted angrily to suggestions he isn’t ready
(Image from PA)

It was bad news for Giuseppe Rossi who also misses out after failing to recover from a knee injury. Despite playing 71 minutes of last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Ireland, head coach Cesare Prandelli felt that the Fiorentina striker hadn’t recovered enough and decided to leave him out of his final 23 man squad, instead picking Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne as his fifth striker. Rossi reacted angrily suggesting that he was fully fit and able to compete but Prandelli disagreed. It’s a bitter blow for Rossi who up until his injury was the leading goal scorer in Serie A and was in contention for a place. Rossi’s exclusion is the second time that he has been overlooked for a final World Cup squad place after being left out of Marcello Lippi’s 2010 squad. Rossi’s grandfather has blasted Prandelli calling him a disgrace for leaving his grandson out after giving him false hope that he had a chance of going. The coaches’ decision is final but like Lippi, Prandelli could live to regret leaving the US born Rossi out of his team.

Ribery's back injury continues to bother him  (Image from Getty)

Ribery’s back injury continues to bother him
(Image from Getty)

On player who did make the cut despite injury concerns in France’s Franck Ribery. The Bayern Munich midfielder made it into Didier Deschamps 23 man squad despite carrying a back injury that has plagued him all season. Whilst Ribery may not play at all in the tournament, Deschamps has decided to take him anyway with the chance that he may recover. Resting Ribery for France’s first group match against Honduras seems likely but it will be up to the coach and the player whether he is to feature against Switzerland on June 20th. The chances are that Ribery’s back will not have healed enough as it appears as though the problem has been in existence since as early as September of last year. Bayern boss chose to use Ribery more sporadically this season than in previous ones in order not to injure the player further but with France’s ambitions to regain their World Cup crown that they won in 1998 still strong, Ribery may be forced into action, especially if he is needed to turn a game around. The decision to leave out Samir Nasri may come back to haunt Deschamps who would rather select a partly fit Ribery over the Manchester City midfielder.

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Simeone Loses His Head as Ancelotti is Confirmed As One Of The Greatest

One of the Greatest - Cralo Ancelotti (Image from Getty)As far as great managers go, Carlo Ancelotti is without doubt one of the finest managers to have ever graced football. Having just guided Real Madrid to their 10th European Cup on Saturday (4 of which under the new Champions League format), Ancelotti adds yet another trophy to his haul. The Italian coach steered his all star team to a famous 4-1 victory over neighbours Atletico Madrid in a thrilling final. Despite being seconds away from defeat before Sergio Ramos dramatic 93rd minutes bullet header leveled the game, Ancelotti remained calm, encourage his team forward in his usual composed way. Whilst his opposite number Diego Simeone was losing his head, Ancelotti remained calm and masterminded a comeback that will now live in Champions League folklore. Tactical changes made on the hour mark switched the balance of the game back in Real’s favour and gave them a renewed energy and focus. Sending on Marcelo and Isco for Fábio Coentrão and Sami Khedira changed the way Real were set up, giving Gareth Bale and more importantly Angel Di Maria more freedom to attack. It was Di Maria’s lofty cross into the box in the dying minutes of the game that led to Real winning the decisive corner from which Ramos would score. And it was Di Maria’s dazzling run and shot deep into extra time that would help Real Madrid take the lead for the first time, thanks to a Gareth Bale header. With the momentum now with the Los Blancos, Atletico crumbled and let Real score twice more through substitute Marcelo and a penalty from Ronaldo.

Bale scores in injury time to give Real the lead  (Image from Getty)

Bale scores in injury time to give Real the lead
(Image from Getty)

It was only as the third goal went in that Ancelotti started to celebrate, throwing his arms into the air before being embraced by assistant Zinedine Zidane. The realization on Ancelotti’s face that he had joined Bob Paisley as one of only two managers ever to lift three European Cups was evident. The only difference between the two men is how they did it. Paisley managed the feat with Liverpool during their glory days in the late 70’s/early 80’s whereas Ancelotti has managed it with two clubs, picking up two titles as AC Milan boss and the third on Saturday as Real Madrid boss. This trophy is added to the various others won by Ancelotti included league titles in England, Italy and France as well as several domestic and European cups like the Intertoto Cup won with Juventus and the UEFA Super cup and FIFA Club World Cups won with Milan.

Bob Paisley won the European Cup three times with Liverpool  (Image from PA)

Bob Paisley won the European Cup three times with Liverpool
(Image from PA)

Whilst trophies demonstrate success for a manager, it’s the day to day work and changes they make to their team and the way that they play that makes a manager great. Going into the match on Saturday, Ancelotti was well aware of the threat that Diego Simeone’s men presented and key players like Diego Costa, Diego Godin and David Villa offered. Despite a half fit Costa, who lasted only 9 minutes before limping off, Atletico were ready for Real and clung to the dream of winning their first ever Champions League trophy to cap a sensational year in which they had regained the La Liga title after an 18 year hiatus. Ancelotti knew that the game would be decided by the match ups in players but without the superb Xavi Alonso, who was suspended for the match, the Italian had a hole in the middle of the park that he needed to fill. Ancelotti turned to Sami Khedira and placed his faith in the German international, despite Khedira having spent the better part of this season out injured. In the first half Khedira poured his heart into the game, covering acres of grass as he nullified the threat from the Atletico midfield. As he tired, he was replaced by Spanish international Isco who added more pace to the game, often running at the now tired and weary Atletico midfield. The introduction of Marcelo and later in the game Morata for Benzema acted like an injection of energy, which was exactly what Real needed to eventually break down a stubborn Atletico defence.

3rd Title for Ancelotti  (Image from Getty)

3rd Title for Ancelotti
(Image from Getty)

In the end, Real and Ancelotti triumphed, much to the distain of Diego Simeone who lost his cool and was eventually sent off. The passionate Argentine could learn a thing or two from his opposite number, who remained as calm and collected as ever even as history was being made. Ancelotti will now focus on building his team back up to challenge for the La Liga crown next season, and in doing so will be hoping to add yet another trophy to his already glittering collection.

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Atletico La Liga Victory Parade On Hold Due To Travel Issues

Atletico celebrate their first title in 18 years (Image from AP)Imagine waiting a long time for something and then not being able to do it due to bad planning. Well that’s exactly what Atletico Madrid are going through right now. The new la Liga champions, who secured their first title in 18 years, are being forced to wait until the start of next season to get their hands on the trophy because Spanish football president Angel Maria Vilar was travelling. Some would say its bad timing given the significance of Sunday’s title decider. But others may feel that it’s a deliberate snub by a man who is rumoured to have grown up as a Real Madrid fan. In any case, it is a black mark against the 64 year old who has been Spanish President since 1988. After one of the most exciting La Liga seasons in the past 20 years, for Vilar not be present at a match of this significance to Spanish football is baffling. Why Vilar did not cancel his travel plans to ensure he would be at the Nou Camp to present the winner with the trophy is unknown. At best he should have appointed someone else to the role to ensure that the season ended on a high. Now trophyless, Atletico are unable to do a well deserved victory parade.

Vilar was on hand last season to present the trophy to Barcelona  (Image from AFP)

Vilar was on hand last season to present the trophy to Barcelona
(Image from AFP)

Not that Diego Simeone will mind as he now switches his focus to this Saturday’s Champions League final against city rivals Real. Injuries to star striker Diego Costa and Turkish midfielder Arda Turan are legitimate concerns for Simone as they look to win their first ever Champions League trophy and end the season with a famous double. Real too have injury worries with Cristiano Ronaldo struggling to shake off a thigh strain. However with Gareth Bale on form and Karin Benzema firing on all cylinders again, Real Madrid are a formidable force with or without Ronaldo. Atletico will know that they need to be at full strength if they are to repeat their win from last year’s Copa del Rey final and will need Costa and Turan fit to do so. Costa limped off after 14 minutes against Barcelona with a tweak of his hamstring that has been troubling him for a few months now. Turan followed seven minutes later after landing heavily and awkwardly on his back following a strong challenge by Cesc Fabregas. The Turkish midfielder is so often the creator of opportunities for Atletico so his absence will be a bitter blow. His chances of making Saturday’s showcase in Lisbon is rated as slim however Costa is more likely to recover and be ready to face Real.

Sweating over Costa and Turan  (Image from Getty)

Sweating over Costa and Turan
(Image from Getty)

Celebrations have been cut short by Simeone who needs his players to remain focused and ready for the challenge ahead. One final effort to round off a dream season for Atletico. Victory parade or not, Atletico will be prepared to face Real Madrid and its star studded lineup. Angel Maria Vilar is expected to be in the crowd presumably cheering on both sides but the responsibility of handing out the trophy will fall to UEFA president Michel Platini who is unlikely to miss such a momentous occasion. If Atletico do win the match, then Simeone and his players may just get the victory parade that they deserve.

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From Workhorse To Thoroughbred – Simeone’s Transformational Season For Atletico

Simeone is transforming Atletico into contenders (Image from Getty)In the Chinese Zodiac, 2014 is the year of the Horse, a powerful creature that symbolizes energetic enthusiasm and the tireless pursuit of goals. In the chase for La Liga this season, the Horse symbolizes Atletico Madrid perfectly and their pursuit of their first title in nearly 20 years. Madrid has demonstrated time and time again their work horse like mentality, carving out results often with critics skeptical of how long it can last. Against all odds, Atletico sit at the top of La Liga in a straight race to the finish, closely pursued by the leagues two thoroughbreds, Barcelona and city rivals, Real. The message from Diego Simeone to his Atletico Madrid team is clear – win your remaining games and the title is theirs. It will take a colossal effort to do so but if they can pull it off, 2014 will no longer be the year of the Horse. Instead it will be the year of the Diego’s.

Year of the Horse but will it be the Year of Diego? (Image from PA)

Year of the Horse but will it be the Year of Diego? (Image from PA)

Atletico’s title run has been a lesson in teamwork, with the entire squad pulling as one in a single direction. But three men have stood head and shoulders above the rest in this endeavor, elevating Atletico Madrid to new heights that they have not experienced in decades. They are the three Diego’s – defender Diego Godin, star striker Diego Costa and last but by no means least manager Diego Simeone. This trio, supported all the way by a pedigree cast such as David Villa, Gabri, Juanfran, Koke and Thibaut Courtios , have symbolized Atletico’s determination and self belief that they can break the Barcelona/Real stranglehold on La Liga and be crowned champions at the end of May. At 28 years old, Uruguayan Diego Godin has spent most of his career in Spain, with three seasons at Villarreal before transferring to Atletico before the start of the 2010/2011 season. Slowly over the next four years, he has toned and perfected his game, becoming a mainstay in the Atletico side and an ever reliable member of the first team squad. His solid performances at the back this season against Barcelona in November and Real Sociedad in February have helped Atletico to hold on to the best goals against total (21) in the league to date. Realizing his importance, Simeone was quick in offering Godin a new long term contract last year, in an effort to ward off the advances of interested teams.

Rock Solid - Diego Godin  (Image from PA)

Rock Solid – Diego Godin
(Image from PA)

One player Simeone will struggle to hold on to at the end of this season is Diego Costa. The Brazilian born Spanish striker has been in blistering form this season notching 24 goals in the league from 29 appearances. His partnership with David Villa has proven to be the catalyst behind Atletico’s push but has attracted the eye of a host of top European clubs. Like Radamel Falcao before him, Costa is likely to depart at the end of the season as part of a bumper transfer but he will be hoping to do so as a La Liga winner. Costa owes a lot to Simeone who put faith in him to fill the void left by Falcao, who departed for Monaco during the summer. Falcao was a legend at the club, scoring 70 goals in 91 games, helping them to lift the Europa League and Super cup trophies as well as the Copa Del Rey during his time. Atletico pocketed €60 million from the sale giving Simeone several options in his search to replace him, but instead he placed his faith in Costa, who has rewarded him in kind with a season full of goals and stunning performances. A strong ox like striker, Costa is a nightmare for opposition defenses. Good with both feet and powerful in the air, Costa drives at defenders like a steam train making him one of the games most feared strikers. If Atletico are to win La Liga, they will need Costa to continue his goal scoring exploits and so far he is do so.

Falcao who? Diego Costa has help Atletico move on after Falcao left  (Image from Getty)

Falcao who? Diego Costa has help Atletico move on after Falcao left
(Image from Getty)

Atletico are performing like a team, with Costa and Godin at the heart but they would not be in this position if it wasn’t for manager Diego Simeone. The Argentinean coach has been nothing short of inspirational since his return to the club in 2011. He has turned Atletico around and made them into a force again in the league. Remarkably he has done so with very little investment in new playing staff, preferring instead to work with and craft the existing squad into a team of winners. The belief that was starved under previous regimes is now back and in abundance, built on the successes in Europe and the Copa Del Rey victory over Real Madrid last season. Before Simeone’s arrival, Atletico struggled and toiled against teams like Getafe, Real Betis and Valencia but this season they are winning those games with ease and emphatically in some cases. Atletico fear no one, not even Barcelona or Real who in the past have been too strong for Los Rojiblancos to cope with.

Atletico's triumph at last years Copa del Rey has given them new belief  (Image from afp)

Atletico’s triumph at last years Copa del Rey has given them new belief
(Image from afp)

Winning La Liga would be the pinnacle of Simeone’s managerial career and would be the final piece in what has been an ever changing puzzle at Atletico. In doing so, Simeone will be in high demand himself, with offers coming from both domestic and international teams but the draw of Madrid should keep Simeone in the Spanish capital. Atletico is deeply entrenched in Simeone’s heart as he is now in theirs. Delivering the La Liga title is his goal and like a workhorse, he is continuing to pursue that dream with vigour and determination. Reaching his goal will mark the transition of Atletico from a work horse to a thoroughbred and in doing so will change the race in La Liga long term from a two horse to a three horse race. Simeone and Atletico know what they need to do, they need to win their remaining games including their final match of the season, away to Barcelona. Not an easy ask but if there is something that Simeone is always up for is a challenge.

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