Chelsea win Kakuta case to overturn transfer ban

Fifa embarrassed in Swiss court as Chelsea pay just £793,000 'goodwill gesture' to Lens for young striker
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The Independent Football

Chelsea were celebrating what they regarded as a major legal victory last night when it emerged that they will have to pay only £793,000 for teenage French striker Gaël Kakuta and have had their transfer embargo lifted by a Swiss court.

The victory in the Kakuta saga, which had initially threatened to result in Chelsea being banned for two transfer windows, was a major blow for Fifa, the world governing body, which brought the case. Last night, Fifa refused to comment on the decision by the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) in Switzerland and will make an official response this morning.

Kakuta's original club Lens saw their case fall apart when they could not produce the professional contract that would have given them a claim over the France youth international, now 18. They had originally demanded £5m after Kakuta joined Chelsea in April 2007 against their wishes, but their failure to provide the necessary contract meant that they were liable for nothing more than a nominal compensation payment.

Accordingly, Chelsea could have paid much less than the £793,000 they gave Lens but they judged that a goodwill payment would mean that they could still do business with the French club in the future.

The total was a combination of the two financial penalties that Fifa imposed on Chelsea in its original sanction in September. Then Fifa fined Chelsea around £113,000 for "inducement [of Kakuta] to breach of contract" and they fined Kakuta, who was just 15 when he left Lens, £680,000 – as well as imposing a transfer embargo for two windows on the club.

Chelsea said last night that they accepted the financial sanction and that they believed it was a "fair figure". Sources at the club said that they had been confident of the verdict for some time and as a result have not been concerned about not buying any players during the transfer window last month, as their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, said would be the case.

They had one bid for Jack Rodwell, of Everton, turned down and made enquiries about Sergio Aguero, of Atletico Madrid, and Ajax's Luis Suarez. However, they felt they were being quoted inflated prices because the selling clubs believed that Chelsea were desperate because of the possibility of the transfer embargo.

In November, Chelsea successfully applied to have the embargo suspended for the January window while they appealed to the CAS. The court in Lausanne is the agreed adjudicator on any Fifa dispute and the governing body does not have leave to appeal.

The ruling has major implications for the raiding of teenage talent from smaller European teams by Premier League clubs. The Kakuta case was supposed to be the benchmark case for Fifa but instead has become an embarrassing failure, especially given Lens' inability to produce a contract.

The Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, said that the club had effectively made the payment as a matter of goodwill and was not admitting having broken any rules. He said: "We are pleased to have come to an amicable resolution of the matter and that it has been ratified by CAS and recognised by Fifa. It was always our intention to work together with Lens to reach this end. Both clubs have strengthened their relationship as a result of resolving this case to everyone's satisfaction. In an act of good faith and with a view to the possibility of future collaboration with Lens, and without recognising any liability, Chelsea has agreed to pay compensation costs for the training given to the player while at Lens, as mandated by Fifa in its original ruling."

Kakuta was also banned for four months in the original Fifa ruling, a sanction which was suspended in November. The 18-year-old has not played for Chelsea's senior team since a 16-minute substitute's appearance in 5-0 home win over Watford in the FA Cup third round on 3 January. However, sources at the club last night said that was unrelated to the CAS decision.