MADRID • Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have confirmed that they will lodge appeals against their transfer bans imposed by Fifa.
The Spanish giants have been banned from registering players for two transfer windows for breaching rules on signing non-Spanish under-18 players. Among the youth players Real signed were coach Zinedine Zidane's four sons.
Real, the world's richest club by income, denied wrongdoing, with director-general Jose Angel Sanchez calling the ban "absurd".
Zidane's sons - midfielder Enzo, 20; goalkeeper Luca, 17; midfielder Theo, 13; and midfielder Elyaz, 10 - who play in Real's youth ranks and have been living in the Spanish capital for years, were among those identified in Fifa's investigation, Sanchez told reporters.
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser that they would also contest the verdict. "It's a great injustice and not being able to sign players is a problem," he said.
The sanction announced on Thursday means the clubs, currently third and first respectively in La Liga, will not be able to register new signings starting from the July transfer window this year until July 2017.
The ban could prompt both clubs to bid for more players in the current window, with British media speculating that the Premier League is set to be raided by Real.
Zidane has been a long-time admirer of Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, who has been struggling at Stamford Bridge this season.
Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, who nearly joined Los Blancos last summer before his move collapsed in the final hours on deadline day, is also still on Real's radar.
After that potential move fell through due to a paperwork delay, the Spaniard agreed a fresh four-year deal that ties him to United until June 2019. But it is understood that his contract includes a £30 million (S$62.1 million) release clause that Real are ready to trigger.
The winter transfer window, however, is typically quiet, and without suitable replacements, Real players will not leave the club.
Spanish football expert Guillem Balague confirmed that Real are now unlikely to offload their stars, and are keen to delay the ban.
Real's great rivals Barcelona were handed a similar penalty in April 2014 for breaking the same set of regulations that were designed to prevent football clubs from exploiting minors.
Barcelona took their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where it was rejected, but it delayed the sanction taking effect until last year's transfer windows.
That allowed Barca 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.
"The plans of Real Madrid were very clear. They wanted to recycle the side and they would have accepted the right offers for Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo," Balague told Sky Sports.
"With the ban, they can still sell players but they cannot register new ones until the summer of 2017, so they are not going to sell their best stars. That means nothing will be moving there unless they delay the ban."