City must play Tevez in 10 per cent of games or allow striker to walk away
Manchester City, whose claims that Carlos Tevez refused to play for them were dealt a heavy blow by the English PFA last night, must play the Argentinian striker in 10pc of their games this season or risk giving him the right to terminate his contract and walk away.
The club indicated in the strongest terms possible on Tuesday evening that their Abu Dhabi owners consider it a matter of principle that Tevez, whom they feel has shown them repeated disrespect, should not be allowed to leave for less than last summer's £40m asking price, making a January sale unlikely.
The Abu Dhabi stance is pushing manager Roberto Mancini into a position where he may be forced to swallow his pride and field Tevez, who was a 2009 recruit from bitter rivals Manchester United and was City's top scorer during their run to the FA Cup title last year that ended a 35-year trophy drought.
Article 15 of FIFA's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players stipulates that the striker is entitled to terminate his contract under "sporting just cause" next summer if he has been on the field for less than 10pc of City's total game-time by then.
The Tevez camp is aware of the case of Goran Pandev, the Macedonian forward forced out of the Lazio squad by club president Claudio Lotito in the summer of 2009, after he angered Lotito by indicating a desire to leave.
In a case with echoes of Tevez, Lotito rejected a €13m (£11m) offer for Pandev from Zenit St Petersburg as too low and within months Pandev filed for termination of his contract.
Italian football's governing body, the Lega Calcio, ordered Lazio to release him and pay him €170,000 for emotional distress.
British sports law specialists believe that Tevez would have a good chance of successfully invoking Article 15, in a case which may go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, if City reject low offers in January and keep him out of the side until next summer.
The club have rejected Corinthians' latest talk of an £18m deal.
"Tevez would have good grounds to invoke Article 15," Daniel Geey, a solicitor at Field Fisher Waterhouse, said yesterday.
"It would be the ultimate way to score over City. The club would not secure a transfer fee, his contract would be terminated and he would be free to sign on somewhere else and get a signing-on bonus there."
Though City's position hardened considerably on Tuesday night after Tevez was fined four weeks' wages and accused of a premeditated decision not to take the field against Bayern Munich last month, the English PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor last night dealt the heaviest blow yet to the club's case against the Argentinian by unexpectedly insisting that he had refused to warm up, not to play.
City consulted the PFA before the hearing and believed that Taylor accepted Tevez should incur more than the usual two-week fine and ban. But the 66-year-old Taylor, who was Tevez's PFA representative at last Friday's disciplinary hearing, said the penalty was too heavy and the accusation of a refusal to play unfounded.
Since the PFA must approve any fine of more than two weeks, City may suffer the ignominy of being unable to impose the four-week sanction.
A PFA statement last night read: "The PFA's opinion, based on all the evidence presented, is that Carlos Tevez never refused to play for the club. This is accepted by the club in that the charge against Carlos made at the hearing was not one of refusing to play. As such the PFA considers that there is no justification for a fine other than up to the prescribed sanction of two weeks' wages agreed by the FA, the Premier League and PFA."
The Tevez camp is now considering suing Mancini for defamation of character over his claim that Tevez refused to take the field, a position which Taylor has now strengthened.
Tevez points to a disparity between the disciplinary hearing verdict published on the club website, which cited "an obligation to participate in any matches in which the player is selected to play for the club" as one of five contract breaches and the letter sent to his lawyers, which cites only a failure "to resume warming up with a view to playing in the match."
No decision on the defamation action is likely, however, before Tevez has exhausted all the appeal channels -- initially to the Manchester City main board and then the Premier League.
Though Article 15 also strengthens Tevez's hand -- "a noose around City's neck" is how the lawyer Geey described it yesterday -- there remains a sense of disbelief in the Tevez camp that the "true market value" that City have indicated they will demand for Tevez could possibly be as high as £40m. (© Independent News Service)