Real Madrid may be breaking the same rule that earned Barcelona a transfer ban

Last week, Real Madrid signed Martin Odegaard, who at the ripe old age of 16 is virtually a veteran compared with some of their other acquisitions.

FIFA is now investigating Real’s underage signings, Bloomberg reports, less than a year after Barcelona was given a 14-month transfer ban for breaching the governing body’s rules on signing minors. Atlético Madrid, Rayo Vallecano and Valencia are also under investigation, according to AS.

An 11-year-old Japanese player and a 12-year-old from Angola are in Real’s youth set-up, but FIFA’s Article 19 states that international transfers of under-18s are only permitted if

– the player’s parents move to the country in which the new club is located for reasons not linked to soccer;

– the transfer takes place within the territory of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) and the player is aged between 16 and 18; or,

– the player lives no further than 50 kilometers from a national border and the club with which the player wishes to be registered in the neighbouring association is also within 50 kilometers of that border.

The club believes it’s acted within the rules, and has sent FIFA information on player registrations, according to Bloomberg. Given the number of worldwide “strategic alliances” it has, the investigation might take some time. Top clubs have built extensive international networks allowing them to identify and develop young talent. When that means bringing the kids overseas to pursue a dream that, statistically, will probably never be realized, there’s a thin line between exploitation and opportunity.

Meanwhile, Real has been stockpiling teenage talent this month – it’s signed or been closely linked with half-a-dozen players who may well have acne, resent their parents and refuse to tidy their bedrooms.