Manchester City face the prospect of a transfer ban if they are judged to have broken rules around the signing of a foreign teenage player at a court case due to be heard next week.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will convene on Monday to hear Argentine club Velez Sarsfield’s claims that City acted unethically by approaching Benjamin Garré when he was still 15 and then flouted transfer rules by signing the attacking midfielder when he turned 16.
FIFA rejected an initial complaint from Velez last September which prompted the club to take City and the world governing body to CAS. If Velez win their case, City could be banned from registering players for two transfer windows.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have all been subjected to transfer bans in the past few years after being found guilty of breaching rules around the signing of international players under the age of 18.
City have strongly dismissed suggestions that one of the reasons they are chasing such a high number of players in this summer’s transfer window is in order to protect themselves in the event a ban is forthcoming. They have already signed goalkeeper Ederson Moraes and Portugal playmaker Bernardo Silva for a combined £78.3 million and are pursuing at least another four players and possibly as many as six more.
Last month, City were banned by the Premier League from signing academy players for two years – with the second 12 months suspended - after it emerged they had made illegal approaches for youth players registered with other clubs.
It is claimed that City broke the rules in signing Benjamin Garré when he was 16 CREDIT: TWITTER: @BENJAGARRE
Velez claim that FIFA rules allow players under 18 to move between clubs only in European countries. FIFA are understood to have approved the transfer on the basis that Garre has an Italian passport.
“Man City argued that there is an exception in the Fifa rules that said that because he has a European passport he could be transferred,” Bernardo Bertelloni, the Velez club secretary, told The Times this month. “But the Fifa rule does not say that, it says he can move only within the EU, between EU clubs.”
Bertelloni claims Garre - who is the grandson of Oscar Garre, a member of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup winning squad - left Velez a couple of days before his 16th birthday and spent a few days in Germany before entering England one day after his 16th birthday.
He also said Txiki Begiristain, the City director of football, wrote to Velez in June last year, a fortnight before Garre’s 16th birthday, to explain that the player and his parents had taken the decision to join City. Velez responded by stating their “express refusal” and warning City that they would be in breach of FIFA rules.