Chelsea are banking on their two-window ban for 29 breaches of transfer rules being put on hold after lodging their intention to appeal the punishment.
But Fifa rules say the transfer ban runs even while the appeal is being heard.
Chelsea’s expectation of a delay is based on previous cases where Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico were found guilty of similar charges but were allowed to spend in the next transfer window pending their appeals.
That allowed Barca to sign players —
Chelsea hoped their appeal would mean they could buy players this summer, allowing them to offer Zidane the sort of spending pot that would attract him to replace Maurizio Sarri.
That will go to the chairman of Fifa’s appeal committee, Thomas Bodstrom, who will decide if the ban should be delayed — or start in the summer as planned.
Former Swedish justice minister Bodstrom, 56, is a former player with AIK Stockholm who became a lawyer and then a politician.
One Fifa insider said: “The Spanish clubs were allowed to appeal because the statutes about transferring minors were relatively new.
“Now they are established and confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“It may be the appeal committee thinks the previous cases have established the legitimacy of the statutes that Chelsea have been found guilty of breaking.”
Chelsea’s ban came following a Fifa investigation into the club signing foreign under-18 players, including former striker Bertrand Traore.
The world governing body announced last month that it had found breaches in 29 cases out of 92. It also fined the club £460,000 and the FA £390,000.
If Bodstrom upholds the ban, Chelsea would be left battling huge problems this summer.
As well as the managerial issue, they face losing Eden Hazard to Real Madrid — but would be unable to buy a replacement until the end of next season.
They could make Hazard stay and see out the final year of his contract — but then risk losing the Belgian for nothing.
Blues would also be prevented from turning Gonzalo Higuain’s loan from Juventus into a permanent deal.