Atletico Madrid have reacted angrily to the Court of Arbitration for Sport's (CAS) rejection of their appeal of a transfer ban imposed by FIFA, saying they feel "discriminated against" by an "unfair ruling" which causes "irreparable damage" to their club.
In January 2016, Atletico and neighbours Real Madrid were banned from all transfers during the summer 2016 and winter 2017 windows after FIFA found they had on a number of occasions broken the laws regarding international transfers of players aged under 16.
Last December, Madrid had their punishment halved in a successful appeal to CAS, meaning they can register new players from July 1.
However, the three-judge tribunal has decided that Atletico's case was different and they must serve the ban in full -- as Barcelona did through 2015 when found guilty of similar breaches of transfer rules.
Atletico reacted with a club statement which said they were angry at a lack of respect shown to them by CAS, but would still be moving ahead to bring in new players this summer.
This ruling is unjust, poses an unfair disadvantage in comparable cases and causes an irreparable damage to our club https://t.co/vhWpztBZVY
- Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) June 1, 2017
The statement read: "After the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed the appeal presented by Atletico de Madrid against the penalty imposed by FIFA's Disciplinary Committee on the case of registering players under age and that was ratified by FIFA's Appeal Committee, reducing the financial penalty, but maintaining the prohibition of registering licenses in the next transfer market period, our club wishes to state the following:
"1. We consider that the decision to support the prohibition of registering players in a second period, corresponding to the summer of 2017, supposes a comparative disadvantage and discriminatory treatment to our entity, since recently and in a similar case, the penalty was partially lifted, allowing to register players starting on July 1st. This ruling is unfair and causes an irreparable damage to our club.
"2. The resolution has been communicated after the time limit established in the agreement signed by the parts, which finished yesterday, May 31st, 2017. This shows a lack of respect for our institution.
"3. We want to reiterate that we have been penalised despite strictly complying with the Spanish legislation, as we have always processed all our licenses with Madrid's Football Federation, as the Sports Law indicates.
"4. Our sports planning for next season has contemplated at all times the two scenarios that could arise once CAS announced their decision. From this moment on, the club will move forward in the negotiations necessary to formalise the operations to register players from the 1st of January, when we will be authorized by FIFA to register new licenses.
"5. We have full confidence in our current squad, with which we have won direct passage to the Champions League for the fifth year in a row and have reached the semifinals of the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. The club has the commitment of the players and coaching staff to continue competing at the same level next season, despite this decision that is evidently detrimental to us. Together, team, club and supporters, we will continue to fight for our goals."
CAS released a statement saying that Atletico's appeal was successful on some counts, but that the ban remains in place as "not all of the alleged violations of FIFA regulations concerning the registration of minor players could be upheld."
The statement read: "The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between Club Atletico de Madrid SAD and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) regarding the decision rendered by the FIFA Appeal Committee (FIFA AC) dated 8 April 2016 in which the Spanish club was sanctioned for breaches of the FIFA regulations concerning the registration of minor players.
"As a consequence, Club Atletico de Madrid SAD remains banned from registering players both nationally and internationally for two complete and consecutive transfer periods... The Panel found that not all of the alleged violations of the FIFA regulations concerning the registration of minor players could be upheld, which justified a reduction of the fine from CHF 900,000 to CHF 550,000 but not of the transfer ban imposed on the club by FIFA."
FIFA released a statement of its own backing CAS' stance.
The statement read: "With this decision, FIFA considers that CAS has shown once again clear and strong support for FIFA's efforts to protect underage players."
CAS' decision could impact on the future of Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann, although Atletico will be powerless to stop the France international from leaving should his €100 million release clause be triggered. A reported €50m move by Manchester City to sign Atletico defender Lucas Hernandez looks less likely to be accepted now.
As of today, we will work to close the ongoing operations as soon as possible and register players on January 1st https://t.co/vhWpztBZVY
- Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) June 1, 2017
Atletico can still add players to their squad during the summer 2017 window, however, they will not be able to make their debuts until next January -- similar to what happened at Barcelona when Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan spent six months training with their new club in 2015 before making their debuts.
However, hopes that Diego Simeone would be able to strengthen his squad immediately with potential signings such as Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette, Chelsea's Diego Costa and Monaco's Fabinho have been dashed. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas claimed last week that Lacazette had a verbal agreement to join Atletico, dependent on the club's transfer ban being lifted.
Atletico will be able to take back players who were on loan this season, such as Luciano Vietto and Matias Kranevitter (both at Sevilla), Javier Manquillo (Sunderland), Diogo Jota (Porto) and Guilherme Siqueira (Valencia). Out-of-contract striker Fernando Torres, 34, can also still be offered a new deal to remain at the club.
An Atletico party including director Clemente Villaverde, academy chief Emilio Gutierrez and German lawyer Christian Keidel were in Switzerland in April to present their case to the three-man CAS tribunal.
At the time, Keidel, of Munich-based Martens Rechtsanwalte, said he would use the same argument that was successful as Madrid saw their punishment halved. This was that the Royal Spanish Football Federation was partly to blame for not explaining adequately to FIFA that the youngsters involved were actually exempt from the rules.
However, recent reports have said that Atletico had 65 "serious breaches" of FIFA's youth transfer regulations, whereas Barcelona had six and Madrid had eight.