Manchester City will probably recoup only £17m if they sack Carlos Tevez and sue him for compensation, which reveals why the player can afford to be so dismissive of the club's demands that he return from Argentina to resume his duties.
Tevez has become uncontactable since his unapproved flit to Buenos Aires a week last Monday and sacking seems increasingly to be City's only way to punish a player who flagrantly ignored a demand to appear at the club and explain his absence, 48 hours ago. Suggestions he is suffering from depression are understood to be wide of the mark.
But the precedent created by Chelsea's successful pursuit of Adrian Mutu for compensation, following his dismissal by the club when he tested positive for cocaine seven years ago, suggests that City may secure less than half the £40m value they currently place on him. Fifa's Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) ordered Mutu to pay Chelsea €17.1m (£14.7m) a figure based on the 44 months remaining on his contract, Chelsea's initial £19.3m outlay,plus agent and signing on fees.
Calculating City's likely pay-out is complicated by the fact that neither the club not the player's representatives have been willing to disclose the precise figure they paid to take on Tevez, estimates of which range from £25m to £47m. Sports lawyer Daniel Geey, who has studied the Mutu judgment in detail, said its precedent pointed to a pay-out of around £17m if City had spent £35m, or as much as £23.5m if they spent £47m on the Argentine. That calculation is based on Tevez being exactly 30 months into a five-year deal from the January transfer window.
City indicated two weeks ago, when they found Tevez guilty of five breaches of contract, that they still considered him worth £40m and they stated "that no offer for Carlos Tevez will be considered unless it reflects true market values." Even if they paid £47m for him, the potential compensation appears to be way below the figure they want. Geey, a solicitor at Field Fisher Waterhouse, said: "If £30m or £35m is the price Manchester City want for the player, then it would appear the club would be unlikely to get such a figure through terminating Mr Tevez's contract and claiming compensation through the DRC. Although the player's salary [£198,000 a week] means they are still paying out £1m on his wages every five weeks, the club may be against terminating the contract because of the time it will take such a case to be heard by the DRC and any subsequent appeal to CAS, the large subsequent legal fees and the sheer resource and management time taken up by the process."
Though for their part, City's Abu Dhabi owners now view it as a point of principle that the player, whom they considered to have shown them repeated disrespect, must not be sold on the cheap for reasons of expediency, Tevez seems to be forcing their hand. A £25m sale in January suddenly looks like good business for City, who 12 months ago insisted they would not consider him going for less than £50m.
Any satisfaction Tevez may feel about the bind City appear to be in may be tempered by the fact that any club who take him on may find themselves liable for any compensation order Fifa hands down. In Mutu's case, Fiorentina – for whom he was playing when ordered to pay back three-fifths of the sum Chelsea paid for him – shouldered some of the financial burden.
"Since Tevez would become a free agent if he is dismissed, his next club may view the settlement of any potential compensation, plus a signing-on fee, as a better deal than paying the market price Manchester City are demanding," said Geey.
City last night indicated they were keeping all their options open while Tevez's representatives, who would view the player's return to England as a welcome development, offered no comment.
The Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor – who backed the player's claim that he had not refused to come on as substitute against Bayern Munich in September – said a reconciliation between Tevez and City becomes "more impossible" by the day. "It's another week and there are more problems," he said. "The situation continues and the longer it goes with him being away the more impossible it becomes to reconcile."