Manchester City could find themselves in a tight spot as they were reported to Fifa for an alleged ‘trafficking’ of Benjamin Garre. The club apparently beat Manchester United and Barcelona to the youngster’s signature.
A formal complaint was lodged against the side by Argentine club Velez Sarsfield. They claim that even though the player joined the club in July after he turned 16 years old, attempts were made to sign him when he was 15, which is a breach of Fifa’s regulations on the transfer of minors. Fifa has been monitoring the transfers of players under 18 years of age from outside the European Union in an attempt to prevent the “exploitation of minors”.
The Argentine side claims that City approached City’s director of football Tiki Begirstain signed the proposal of the club paying Velez €50,000 for when Garre made his professional debut with further payments totalling up to €1.05m depending on following appearances. Velez claim they rejected this proposal. In a slightly dramatic manner, president Raul Gamez saying on Wednesday, “I have never experienced such an immoral act.”
In a statement, he added, “What is most important in these cases is the formation and development of the child, in a supportive environment, above economic or strictly sports interests. It is crazy to think that our youngsters can find themselves in a situation of vulnerability or abuse in a foreign country, without their family or somebody to protect them.”
The sport’s governing body hit Barcelona with a two-window transfer ban for breaching this rule. The Catalan side served the ban last season. Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have also been hit with the same ban and cannot make any signings in the next two windows. However, both the clubs are appealing this decision.
City could face the same if they are proved guilty although they are firmly denying any wrongdoing. They say that Garre holds an Italian passport which allows players from the EU to sign a professional contract on their 16th birthday. According to Fifa regulations, there are only three specific exceptions for a player to be permitted to be transferred under the age of 18. An international player under the age of 18 is allowed to move if his parents have moved due to strictly work reasons, the club is within 31 miles of the border of their own country, or when a transfer happens inside the EU and the player is over 16.
Velez want to take the cast to the Court of Arbitration of Sport, the same institution that punished the three La Liga clubs.
If the Premier League side is imposed with the same ban, it could hurt the club next season. While Guardiola’s squad has enough quality to get them through the season, the manager will need to get some reinforcements next summer, when he would prepare the team for the next season. The Premier League is highly competitive, and not adding further steel to the side could hurt City’s chances.
At the moment, it would be rash to predict anything. Sky Sports have even claimed their “sources” are confident City didn’t break any rules. However, considering how strict the CAS has been regarding this rule in the past, precedence suggests City will need to make long-term adjustments in the near future.