The transfer ban imposed on his Barcelona is unfair and has come about due to a continuing campaign by unnamed enemies who want to damage the Camp Nou outfit, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said on Thursday.
Bartomeu said the club has never broken any Spanish regulations in signing young talents to its La Masia academy. He said the club has been "the victim of a grave injustice" and vowed it will not change its model for recruiting youth players despite being penalised with a transfer ban by FIFA.
FIFA's punishment "penalises a model that has worked for 35 years. We have no intention of changing our model. You can't touch our Masia," he said
Bartomeu says other clubs also breach FIFA's rules, but did not name them. Barcelona will appeal the ban.
On Wednesday, FIFA found Barcelona guilty of repeatedly breaching transfer regulations in signing youth players.
FIFA announced on Wednesday that Barca would not be able to sign any players for two transfer windows after being found guilty of breaking rules related to youth transfers. The La Liga club said it will appeal to FIFA -- and to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if necessary.
"It is unfair what has happened," Bartomeu said. "We are an exemplary club in every way. We trust a lot in our lawyers. They say they have arguments for the punishment to be withdrawn. We do not see ourselves as victims, we are working to make the club greater, we will answer when we have to against FIFA and CAS, what has happened is unjust."
Taking a similar tack to when it emerged the club's signing of Neymar last summer was being investigated last January, Bartomeu suggested the ban was part of a long campaign by unnamed enemies aimed at damaging the Catalan club.
"We have noticed that externally they are trying to do damage to Barca, and we are investigating this," he said. "We remember cases with doping, a player who had paid taxes etcetera. We are investigating and we have evidence. When we have proof we will look for these people. We are sure of what has happened. It will all come out in the end."
Barca’s defence in the case appears to be that their La Masia academy provides an excellent all-round education for youngsters, and should not be subject to rules designed to combat the 'trafficking' of children by unscrupulous agents and clubs.
"We agree with the regulations, what we want is for clubs like Barca to be an exception," Bartomeu said. "The [punishment is] against a model of 35 years which is the essence of our club, an exemplary model which has been praised by FIFA. Xavi, Iniesta, Messi... we look after the kids, their education. Maybe in their country they would not receive this education. In our youth system we have 230 children from 18 different countries, 40 of these are not Spanish. The message is that you cannot touch La Masia."
Bartomeu said that once the club had been informed of FIFA’s concerns over the youth transfers, Barca had attempted to act in accordance with the relevant regulations.
"When FIFA told the kids could not play, they stopped playing,” he said. “The parents of these kids want them to stay with us. We ask FIFA to look from case to case, the circumstances of each kid, so that there can be exceptions to the rules.”
Bartomeu did not directly address a question from a reporter asking if he thought Barca’s rivals Real Madrid had started the issue by making a complaint to FIFA, but he did say that other clubs in Spain and elsewhere in Europe had players in their youth systems who had been signed in similar ways.
"I prefer not to talk about other clubs, but the situation of Barca is the same with other clubs here [in La Liga] and many other foreign clubs," he said.
Barca's summer transfer plans, which have already seen a deal agreed for Croatian starlet Alen Halilovic and also reportedly a move made for Borussia Moenchengladbach goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen, were continuing as normal despite the judgement, Bartomeu said.
"We are not concerned about the planning for next season," he said. "It continues the same, there will be no change." Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.