Manchester City last night faced the double ignominy of being forced to halve the fine handed out to Carlos Tevez and to allow him to play further games for the club, if he is not sold in January.
The Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor's unexpected declaration yesterday that Tevez had not been guilty of refusing to play at Bayern Munich last month, and that his four-week fine was excessive, infuriated City, who had needed PFA consent to dock the player more than two weeks' wages.
The club's consultations with Taylor, ahead of last Friday's disciplinary hearing with the Argentine, left them with the clear impression that the PFA had agreed that a two-week fine, which does not require PFA approval, was inadequate in this player's case. But in what City view as a U-turn, Taylor has now concluded that the club's accusation of a refusal to play is unfounded and the fine unreasonable.
Since a fine of more than two weeks is unenforceable without PFA assent, City must also mount and win a legal action against the PFA or be limited to fining their former captain a mere two weeks' wages: £396,000. Taylor, who was Tevez's PFA representative at the hearing, may also have heartened the Tevez camp when it deides on whether to lodge a defamation action against City manager Roberto Mancini for twice declaring in Munich the 27-year-old had refused to play.
City's attempts to maintain a hard line against Tevez (above) are further undermined by Fifa legislation which means they must play the Argentine in 10 per cent of their games this season or risk giving him the right to terminate his contract and walk away.
The club indicated on Tuesday that their Abu Dhabi owners consider it a matter of principle that Tevez should not be allowed to leave for less than last summer's £40m asking price, making a January sale unlikely.
Article 15 of Fifa's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players stipulates the striker is entitled to terminate his contract under "sporting just cause" next summer if he has been on the field for less than 10 per cent of City's total game time. "Tevez would have good grounds to invoke Article 15," Daniel Geey, a solicitor at Field Fisher Waterhouse, said yesterday.