Five problems a transfer ban causes Barcelona
Spanish giants Barcelona were hit by a one-year transfer ban from football's governing body FIFA on Wednesday for "serious" breaches of rules in acquiring under-age players.
Here, AFP sports looks at what problems the Catalans could face should the sanction be upheld.
- Can't replace Valdes or Puyol
This summer's transfer window was already set to the be the most important in Barca's recent history as captain Carles Puyol and veteran goalkeeper Victor Valdes have indicated their intention to leave the club in June.
Twenty-one-year-old German international 'keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was on the verge of completing his move from Borussia Monchengladbach to replace Valdes with another three signings planned to boost the depth of the squad ahead of next season.
Barca are already very short of options at centre-back and the inability to find a successor to Puyol will put enormous pressure on the club's vaunted La Masia academy.
- Another blow to the club's battered reputation
Just a few years ago Barcelona enjoyed worldwide acclaim for their "more than a club" motto as they had UNICEF rather than a commercial sponsor on their shirts and produced one of the best teams the world has ever seen under Pep Guardiola largely with players from La Masia.
However, Guardiola's departure has coincided with a commercial sponsorship agreement with Qatar Airways and the controversial signing of Brazilian star Neymar which led to Sandro Rosell resigning as the club's president and Barca being charged with tax fraud.
- Camp Nou referendum up in the air
The news comes at the worst possible time for Barca's embattled board, led by new president Josep Maria Bartomeu as their proposal for a 600 million euro ($827 million) refurbishment of the Camp Nou will go to a vote of the club's members on Saturday.
It was already expected that the referendum could allow the Barca support to voice their displeasure at the board who refused to call new presidential elections despite Rosell's resignation in January.
- Huge distraction at most important time of the season
FIFA's bombshell fell barely 12 hours after Barca had drawn at home to Atletico Madrid in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
Gerardo Martino's men also trail leaders Atletico by just a point with seven games to go in La Liga and face Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final on April 16.
The players and coaching staff must once again block out negative news off the field to concentrate on their fight for titles on three fronts.
- Could rob La Masia of future talent
Whilst the majority of those who graduate from Barca's academy come from the local Catalan region, Barca have never been adverse to acquiring talent from outwith Spain at a very young age.
Most famously of all, four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi left his native Argentine to join Barca aged 13.
FIFA's clampdown may scare off Barca's future attempts to discover a new Messi.