MADRID • Fifa yesterday banned Spanish giants Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from buying footballers for one year over their dealings in under-age players.
The sanction means the clubs, currently third and first respectively in La Liga, will not be able to register any new signings until July 2017 once the present transfer window closes at the end of the month.
Atletico were also fined 900,000 Swiss francs (S$1.3 million), while Real were docked 360,000.
Fifa said: "The two clubs were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of minor players, as well as other relevant provisions with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in competitions."
Fellow Spanish giants Barcelona have just ended a one-year ban for similar reasons.
Ins and outs of bans
With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid both banned from signing new players for the next two transfer windows, the two clubs are likely to shut their exit doors too.
Without replacements, key players are unlikely to leave.
Here is a look at players who could be affected by the transfer ban.
Linked with moves away from the Bernabeu
•Gareth Bale (linked with Manchester United)
•Cristiano Ronaldo (linked with United and Paris Saint-Germain)
Linked with moves to Real
•David de Gea (United)
•Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
•John Stones (Everton)
•Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Linked with moves away from the Vicente Calderon Stadium
•Jackson Martinez and Antoine Griezmann (linked with Chelsea)
•Saul Niguez (linked with a move to United)
Linked with moves to Atletico
•Diego Costa (Chelsea)
Real and Atletico were "issued with a reprimand and given 90 days in which to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned".
They can still sell players during the transfer ban. However, without suitable replacements coming in, it remains to be seen if the likes of Real stars Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo could leave the Bernabeu.
Bale, the world's most expensive player, is strongly linked with a summer move to Manchester United.
There has been speculation that Ronaldo was set to make a big-money move after Singapore billionaire Peter Lim, who owns Valencia, acquired his image rights. In recent seasons, the three-time World Player of the Year had been tipped to join French champions Paris Saint-Germain or return to Old Trafford.
Fifa said the alarm was raised over the two clubs by Fifa's Transfer Matching System, and its disciplinary committee completed the inquiry. Under international football rules, players under 18 years old cannot be transferred to another country, except in limited circumstances. All transfers need the approval of a special Fifa committee.
"The investigations concerned minor players who were involved and participated in competitions with the clubs over various periods between 2007 and 2014 (Atletico Madrid) and between 2005 and 2014 (Real Madrid)," Fifa said.
The news is just the latest institutional embarrassment for Real Madrid, a week after they appointed French legend Zinedine Zidane.
Real have sacked two Champions League-winning coaches in Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez in the past seven months, as well as been thrown out of the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player.
Neither Real no Atletico made an immediate comment on whether they would appeal.
Barcelona were initially banned in April 2014, but delayed the sanction taking effect until last year's transfer windows by launching an ultimately unsuccessful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
By delaying the ban, Barca managed to sign the likes of Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic in the summer of 2014 to propel them to a treble of La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey last season.