Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has denounced FIFA for punishing the La Liga club over a breach of rules on the transfer of foreign under-18 players, saying they are victims of a “grave injustice”.
Soccer’s world governing body announced on Wednesday it had banned the Spanish champions from the transfer market for two consecutive windows and fined them 450,000 Swiss francs ($504,700).
The Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) was fined 500,000 Swiss francs after FIFA found it had also breached rules on the transfer of minors.
Barca denied wrongdoing and said they would move to get the transfer ban suspended until their appeal is heard and would take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if necessary.
Bartomeu fiercely defended the Catalan club’s La Masia academy, which has produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, at a news conference on Thursday.
He said Barca would push ahead with plans to buy at least a goalkeeper and a central defender in the close season.
“We are outraged and the victims of a grave injustice,” Bartomeu told reporters.
“With this sanction, FIFA is punishing a model that has existed for 35 years and which is the essence of this club.
“FIFA knows that we do things well and we look after the children and give them an education that perhaps they wouldn’t get in their own country.
“We are not prepared in any way to give up our educational model. We have defended, continue to defend and will always defend the rights of minors.
“Hands off La Masia, that’s the message we want to send to our members and fans, hands off La Masia.
“We will fight until the end to protect this model because it has made our first team become a leader in world football.
“We have absolute confidence in our lawyers and they tell us we have good grounds to think that the sanction will be lifted.”
FIFA’s punishment was the latest blow to the club and came after Bartomeu’s predecessor, Sandro Rosell, was forced to step down in January amid allegations of misappropriation of funds and tax fraud linked to the signing of Brazil forward Neymar.
Rosell has always denied any wrongdoing.
Argentina forward Messi and his father have also been implicated in a tax fraud probe and Bartomeu suggested there may be a concerted campaign to damage the club.
He said it was “very strange” that the FIFA decision to sanction Barca, which he noted came after an “anonymous denunciation”, had been taken at the end of November but not communicated to the club until more than four months later.
“We have noticed for quite a while now that someone is trying to damage Barca and we are investigating,” he said.
“We have suffered many things these past years continued…