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Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have just been hit with the devastating penalty of a freeze on transfer activity in the next two windows – January 2017 and summer 2017. Both clubs profess their innocence and have the chance to appeal against the ban again before September 14, but it is looking likely that the Madrid sides will face the same fate as Barcelona last year for illegal international transfer activity with players under the age of 18.
With the recent resurgence of Atletico in La Liga to turn the league into more of a three horse race, and Real’s continued tussling at the top, a transfer ban could gift Barcelona a clear run at the title in the 2017/18 campaign as their main rivals are unable to enlist reinforcements. The Catalan club has won the league for the past two seasons running and Zinedine Zidane is desperate to re-establish his side as the top contenders. This season at least, though, it is close. In the Bet365 La Liga betting, Luis Enrique’s side are at 5/6 to win, with the Galacticos at 5/4.
Each club under scrutiny was able to conduct their desired transfer business in this summer’s transfer window, so the implications of this ban won’t really be felt until next summer. Both Madrid clubs currently have the staff on the books to challenge in the league, but the crucial factor is holding onto key players in the next two windows when they won’t be able to replace them.
Luckily for Atletico, their key player, Antoine Griezmann has said that while Diego Simeone is at the club, he will stay. The Argentine is a sought after manager though, and there is a chance he may be approached to replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal next summer should the Frenchman fail to earn a new contract with the London club. The Red and Whites may therefore be wise to offer enriched salary incentives to crucial protagonists after their recent successes.
It may also be prudent for Real to offer improved contracts to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to prevent them from succumbing to the lure of offers from other clubs. Bale in particular has been favoured for a move elsewhere in recent windows, with Manchester United reported to be keenly interested in the Welshman.
Barcelona proved that a transfer ban is not the end of the world, as they still managed to win the league, the Champions League, and the Copa Del Rey during their punishment. However, in preparation for the ban, the 24-time La Liga champions spent significant sums on strong recruits such as Luis Suarez, and Ivan Rakitic. The most notable move from Atletico this summer was the signing of Nico Gaitan from Benfica. Real Madrid’s was re-signing Alvaro Morata from Juventus. Neither team added the much needed extra depth to their squads.
With the Madrid clubs facing this stern retribution seemingly under-prepared, it certainly provides Barcelona with the opportunity to hold a firm grip at the summit of the league for at least the next two seasons.