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Barcelona vows not to change youth model despite ban

Barcelona, Spain: Barcelona have been “the victim of a grave injustice” after being hit with a Fifa transfer ban, the club’s president said on Thursday, as the Spanish champion vowed not to change its model for recruiting youth players.

Josep Maria Bartomeu told a news conference the club has never broken any Spanish regulations in signing young talents to its famed La Masia academy, which has produced such players as Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, and Andres Iniesta.

“We’re victims of a grave injustice. With this decision, Fifa is penalising a model that has worked for 35 years, it is penalising the club. Barca is a model to follow (…) we have no intention of changing our model.

“You can’t touch our Masia. This model is what has allowed our club and its football to be the most successful in the last decade.”

Bartomeu said the club was investigating who made the initial protest about a young South Korean player that led Fifa to demand information on 33 youth players since February 2013.

Barcelona continued to point fingers at Fifa and other clubs, with Bartomeu asking why “Barca is restricted by these rules and other clubs not?” and that “it’s not normal that all of these things happen to one club” as Barcelona has also been charged with tax fraud over its signing of Brazil striker Neymar.

Asked if Real Madrid was behind the anonymous tip-off to Fifa, Bartomeu said the club was investigating: “I can’t say where this points to. We are investigating documents. When we have proof, we’ll act with total determination.”

Barcelona hopes for a temporary lifting of the ban as it appeals the sanction, which was brought by Fifa after it found the Catalan club guilty of repeatedly breaching transfer regulations in signing youth players from 2009-13. The club believes the regulations should be reviewed.

Bartomeu said Barcelona will take the matter to civil courts if it does not see the transfer ban reversed.

He added the club needed to know if the signings it had already made would be allowed, as it needed to fill squad spots at goalkeeper and center back.