This past week, FIFA made the big announcement that both Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid were given a two-window transfer ban for violating provisions concerning first registration and international transfer of players under 18.
A similar ban was imposed on FC Barcelona back in 2014, and ended in time for this January’s transfer window.
Both Madrid clubs will now be forced to sit out of transfer races until the summer of 2017. This news is huge not just for clubs in Spain, but for top European opponents as well.
Atléti and Real sit in first and third place, respectively, with Barcelona dividing the two and surprise contender Villarreal contending in fourth. There is a difference of seven points between the first and fourth teams. The two Madrid clubs can continue to add players for the remainder of the January window, but once that window closes, they will be unable to change their squads for an entire season.
This could not have come at a better time for Spanish soccer. Granted, Atléti and Real have excellent teams with world-class players, but the rest of the league will be able to improve while both Madrid clubs are prevented from bringing in better players.
According to The Sun, Real Madrid is gearing up for an unprecedented window, looking to bring in Eden Hazard, David de Gea, Paul Pogba, Sergio Agüero, Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane and John Stones. This mad dash of sorts is almost as unlikely as Levante winning the La Liga title this season, but with half a window remaining to sign big names, anything can happen.
Real Madrid has already splurged on signing its Galácticos to huge deals, so it would make the signing of all these players even more unlikely. And to make matters worse, Real Madrid is also adjusting to new manager and former French legend Zinedine Zidane.
Regardless of if Real Madrid signs global stars or not, it is still in third place in the La Liga table. Table-topper Atlético Madrid could also lose its manager, as Diego Simeone could be heading to Chelsea with this ban imposed, according to the Daily Mirror.
Despite only scoring 30 goals, the Rojablancas are one of the stoutest defensive teams in the world, having only conceded eight goals.
If they hold on to win the league, the credit not only goes to their defense, but to French striker Antoine Griezmann, who has scored 18 times across all competitions.
However, the future looks much dimmer for Atléti, as Fernando Torres’ loan expires at the end of the year, leaving the forward corps extremely thin.
So what will ultimately come out of this transfer ban?
This could not have come at a better time for a club like Villarreal. The “Yellow Submarine” has proven that it can compete at the top level in La Liga and is even in the running for the title this season. With bigger clubs like Real and Atlético out of the running for big-name signings, Villarreal can lure them into their side.
Imagine a world where, for once, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid aren’t bringing in big names and may not win the league for a couple years. Honestly, the current rotation of the same teams winning titles in La Liga is getting rather boring.
But with Villarreal entering the picture and looking like a true contender, there could finally be a permanent fourth team entering the La Liga title race.
And it means even more for the rest of Spain.
Teams like Valencia, Sevilla, Málaga, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad have all, in recent years, been near the top of the La Liga plateau, and were rewarded with a qualification for UEFA competitions.
Without two of the biggest clubs in the world vying for big names, clubs such as the five mentioned above could finally make a splash in the transfer market.
When you plant a big tree next to a little tree, the little one will wither and die due to lack of exposure. Now, that big tree has been temporarily chopped down, allowing the little trees around it to grow and prosper for the time being.
Barcelona is still undoubtedly in the picture, and both Atletico and Real will continue to be good, but it would not surprise me if a team like Sevilla or Villarreal enters the La Liga title race next season as a serious contender.
The times are a-changin’ in Spain, and it’s time for another club to enter the spotlight. This ban will ultimately benefit the league by making it more balanced.