FIFA hands Chelsea a year-long transfer ban, but how much will it actually hurt the Blues?

FIFA hit Premier League titan Chelsea with a two-window transfer ban on Friday, the punishment handed down following a three-year investigation by global soccer’s governing body that found Chelsea had broken rules related to the signing of youth players.

“The FIFA disciplinary committee has sanctioned the English club Chelsea FC and the Football Association for breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18,” FIFA said in a statement announcing the news.

The club intends to appeal the ruling, according to multiple reports. If upheld, the ban would forbid the Blues from adding new players during the next two transfer windows. That means that the earliest the London club would be able to lure new recruits would be the summer of 2020. (Chelsea’s women’s and futsal squads are exempt from the sanctions, FIFA said.) The Zurich-based organization also fined the Blues 600,000 Swiss francs, just over $600,000.

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Chelsea’s transfer ban could prevent manager Maurizio Sarri (left) from signing stars like Gonzalo Higuain outright. (Adam Davy/Getty)
Chelsea’s transfer ban could prevent manager Maurizio Sarri (left) from signing stars like Gonzalo Higuain outright. (Adam Davy/Getty)

How much will the ban hurt Chelsea?

Chelsea isn’t the first all-world club to find itself in hot water over its transfer dealings. Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid have all been banned in the recent past without much of a negative impact on their success on the field or off.

Even if Chelsea loses its appeal, the delay in the process could be enough to allow the club to stockpile signings before the transfer freeze goes into effect. That was Barca’s strategy back in 2014, when it was able to bring in roster mainstays such as Luis Suarez before going dark for an extended period.

Still, there’s no question that what’s effectively a year-long suspension from the global player market will hurt the Blues’ ability to compete against rivals both in the Prem and internationally, even in the short term.

Will the ban impact Christian Pulisic’s move to the Blues?

After Chelsea announced last month that it had signed U.S. men’s national team front man Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund, it immediately loaned him back to the German Bundesliga leaders until the end of the current season.

Because the Pulisic deal was agreed to before Friday’s ruling, it will not be affected by it. However, the ban could potentially prevent Chelsea from making the loans of Gonzalo Higuain (from Juventus) and Mateo Kovacic (from Real Madrid) permanent this summer, although an option to buy clause contained in the original arrangement with Juve might provide a loophole in Higuain’s case.

Christian Pulisic’s move to Chelsea this summer will not be affected by the travel ban. (The Independent)
Christian Pulisic’s move to Chelsea this summer will not be affected by the travel ban. (The Independent)

Can Eden Hazard and others still leave the club?

Yes. The ban only prevents Chelsea from buying new players, not selling the ones it already has. There had already been a ton of speculation that Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard could leave London this summer if he continues to refuse a contract extension at Stamford Bridge. That could still happen.

In fact, the odds of Hazard sticking around long-term – and this also goes for the likes of youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi as well as veterans Willian and Pedro, all of whom will be free agents when their contracts expire in 2020 – are probably even slimmer now. 

The Chelsea brass knows this. The prudent thing to do from a business standpoint would be to sell those players this summer rather than risk losing them for nothing 12 months on. But would the Blues be able to remain competitive without the ability to replace several key difference-makers? If the decision-makers determine that the answer is no, Chelsea just might be forced to hang on to Hazard et. al. for one final season nonetheless.

Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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