La Liga

Published on December 20th, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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Could PR disaster see Barcelona banned from transfer market?

Top of the table and smooth sailing under Ernesto Valverde, but Barcelona’s future could become a nightmare after a slip of the tongue

“Did President Bartomeu have meetings with Griezmann’s family? If the trades say so, it might be the case. There might have been an approach, but I don’t know. There is a good vibe, a good relationship, there may be conversations. Rumors are inevitable in the football world. In Griezmann’s case, there are a number of players with whom Barça might be having talks and building goodwill just in case the opportunity presents itself. It is our duty to have those contacts with players”, said former Barça player Guillermo Amor last Sunday.

Amor, who is in charge of the sports and institution’s PR for the club has made one of the biggest mouth-in-foot mistakes of the century by openly and publicly admitting that Atlético player Antoine Griezmann would be a nice addition to their squad and that his club has (well, ‘might have’) begun talking to his inner circle about a potential move.

As everyone knows, FIFA has a strict transfer policy regarding players with ongoing contracts with any given team. Open negotiations behind the owner club’s back are a definite no-no. Only in the case of a player in the last six months of his current contract is the buyer team allowed to negotiate with him or his agents. Any other move in that direction could mean harsh consequences for the side breaking the rules.

So, yeah, at the end of the day, Amor admitted that Barça are breaking FIFA’s regulations. Good job, buddy.

The Griezmann saga has had many chapters over the last two years. Whispers come and go about the Frenchman’s desire to leave someday, and that date seems closer and closer as months go by. Last summer, strong Manchester United interest was eventually shot down by manager Diego Pablo Simeone and by the striker himself, who extended his contract in June until 2022 and bumped up his buyout clause to €200 million.

The deal had a catch, though: that huge price tag will lower to a ‘cheap’ €100 million in summer 2018. And those were the conditions under which Barça wished to negotiate his signing in the following months.

Amor has spilled the beans on the matter and there’s no backpedaling which could fix this PR disaster. Atlético’s board knows that selling Griezmann to Barça would mean excellent business financially (they bought him for €30 million in 2014), but a catastrophically huge blow to their fans’ expectations. The Colchonero fanbase has become used to grittiness and competitiveness, and losing their main scorer – even if he isn’t quite in top shape this season – would be a tremendous disappointment.

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So how can Atlético spin this Barça misstep in their favour? By reporting on Barça’s not-so-secret pursuit of Griezmann to FIFA. They put their case on Monday night, which puts them in a position of power and dominance in the drama that will surely unravel. Adding insult to injury, they insist, Barça’s desire to sign the striker has been made public in the same week Atlético climbed into second spot of the standings, and now the main source of opposition for the leader of the league.

The Madrid side claims that this maneuver could destabilize their club, and that’s the main reason for the filing of the formal complaint that will force FIFA to look into those talks between the Catalan side and the player’s inner circle.

If they find Barça guilty, the penalty could be extremely harsh: drawing a parallel with a similar case in 2005 between AC Roma and Auxerre after the lid of the negotiations with defender Philippe Mexes was blown off, Barça could be banned from signing players for two full consecutive transfer market windows. That would be a year-and-a-half with no new additions to their squad. And everything thanks to a former player-turned-executive who spoke too much.

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante's news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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