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Barcelona hit with transfer ban by FIFA

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(CNN) — It’s a club that has built its reputation on developing some of the world’s best players, but leading European club Barcelona has been hit by a transfer ban imposed by FIFA after breaking the world governing body’s rules relating to the “international transfer of minors.”

Barca’s youth players are drawn not just from Catalonia and Spain, but also from around the globe and trying to recruit the world’s best is a competitive business — Argentine Lionel Messi joined Barca at the age of 11.

If you get the development of young players right it can be a hugely lucrative business. In June Barcelona said of the 25 players in its first team, 17 came its youth academy — the highest percentage of recent years.

Unless it manages to successfully appeal the FIFA ban, Barca will be prevented from signing players — both youth and senior players — in the next two transfer windows.

That could have severe consequences for the Spanish champions.

Transfer windows are important for all clubs as they allow them to refresh their squads.

That’s important not just for maintaining on-field competitiveness but also for marketing purposes, such as selling shirts. Last summer, for example, Barca invested nearly $120 million on just one player — Brazilian international Neymar.

Barcelona were not immediately for comment as to whether it planned to appeal the ban.

The FIFA ruling comes after an investigation found the Spanish champions had broken regulations regarding the transfer of young players from outside Spain.

FIFA’s investigation focused on several players aged under 18 who were registered and played for the club between 2009 and 2013.

Under FIFA laws, clubs are not allowed to sign international players under the age of 18 unless the player is moving within the European Union, is aged between 16 and 18 and moving with their parents or the club and the player both live within 50 kilometers of a shared national border.

“The Disciplinary Committee regarded the infringements as serious and decided to sanction the club with a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, together with a fine of CHF 450,000 ($508,000),” read a FIFA statement.

“Additionally, the club was granted a period of 90 days in which to regularize the situation of all minor players concerned.

“The investigations concerned several minor players who were registered and participated in competitions with the club over various periods between 2009 and 2013.”

The Spanish Football Federation has also been hit with a CHF 500,000 ($565,000) fine by FIFA. The Spanish Federation was not immediately available for comment.

The ban on Barcelona means the club will be unable to buy players during the “summer” transfer window which runs between June and August, and the January 2015 window.

“In this respect, the Disciplinary Committee emphasized that the protection of minors in the context of international transfers is an important social and legal issue that concerns all stakeholders in football,” continued the statement.

“The Disciplinary Committee underlined that FIFA takes the protection of minors in football very seriously.”

It is unclear whether the ban will effect transfers Barca have in the pipeline.

German goalkeeper Andre Ter Stegen has reportedly been linked with a move to Barca from Borussia Monchengladbach this summer, while highly-rated 17-year-old Alen Halilovic is set to arrive at the Camp Nou from Dinamo Zagreb.

This is not the first negative story that has threatened to derail Barca’s season.

President Sandro Rosell resigned in January after a judge ordered a hearing to investigate the misappropriation of funds during the signing of Brazil star Neymar in 2013.

Neymar was on the scoresheet as Barca drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in Tuesday’s European Champions League quarterfinal first leg.