Brutal news for everyone’s favo(u)rite London-based, Russian-owned, internationally staffed football club: FIFA just banned Premiership leaders Chelsea from the next two transfer windows as punishment for some youth-player hanky panky with some French kid who hasn’t even played for the club’s first team yet. While Chelsea’s certain appeal may lead to a reduction or an elimination of the transfer ban, the sanction has the potential to scramble the Premier League’s dynamics rather drastically. If Chelsea can’t deploy Roman Abramovich’s squadrillions to strengthen the squad for the remainder of this season and the beginning of next, the task of unseating Manchester United, neutralizing Arsenal and Liverpool and fending off the increasingly formidable peloton led by Manchester City becomes much more challenging.
Beyond the competitive implications, this is is hardboiled stuff from the soccer brass. FIFA’s ruling also forbids Gael Kakuta, the player in question, from any kind of action for four months, and smacks the poor child with a 780,000-euro fine just to make sure he gets the message. A mega-rich club using its bullying bank account to evade the rules certainly warrants punishment, but it seems harsh to come down so hard on a player for actions undertaken when he was a mere teen.
Of course, maybe Kakuta should count himself lucky: FIFA slammed Real Zaragoza and an Brazilian player with an 11-million-euro fine for similar offenses. In the murky world of international soccer personnel traffic, crime doesn’t pay. Except, of course, when it does.