Last week's decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) could have ramifications for football as big as the Bosman ruling in 1995 and the Webster ruling in 2006. The notable difference being that where the previous legal rulings significantly increased player power in the football market, this newest ruling is almost definitely a triumph for the clubs.
Having tested positive for cocaine in September 2004 his employer, Chelsea FC, decided to sack Mutu in October. After spending almost €30m purchasing Mutu from Parma in the summer of 2003, barely a year and a half later, Mutu was out on his ear with his reputation in tatters.
The CAS have ordered Mutu to repay over half of the investment Chelsea made in him. The final figure of €17m (which was originally €9m as deemed by FIFA) is a hammerblow...even by a footballer's standards.
Of course, one would be pushed to ask, why did Chelsea push for such drastic action in the first place with Mutu? Surely a €30m write-off on a player was too much back in 2004?
Maybe for most, but probably not for Roman Abramovich.
Even then, the most naive of football fans will still tell you that there is a more than fair chance the young, rich, and famous playboys of the Premier League will often experiment with recreational drugs anyway.
Don't clubs deal with this sort of thing in-house?
And that's where Mutu can be rightly aggrieved. The decision to make Mutu's (admittedly disgraceful) actions public and sack him on that basis was more than likely, a politically motivated decision within the club.
Adrian Mutu, I can assure you, is not the first footballer in history to have been caught snorting cocaine by his club, so why treat him as such?
Various cynics have suggested his quite public spat with Mourinho at the time may have been a decisive factor in the events leading up to Mutu's dismissal...was Mutu faking injury? We'll never know for sure.
But the sacking was also to prove a double blow for Mutu, because along with losing his lucrative contract at a clearly successful club, Mutu was banned from football for seven months and was fined £20,000 by the FA.
Mutu did eventually return to football however; moving to Italy, signing with Juventus (who were themselves to drag moral standards in football to a new low, ironically). So by January 2005, Juventus had come to aquire for free what Chelsea had paid over the odds for.
Another obvious question, and one proposed by Mutu's legal team then arises, can Juventus be held liable for part of the compensation? Common sense would dictate this would certainly be a bit of a stretch, especially considering Juventus were simply dealing with a free agent at the time of his signing and nothing more.
The CAS agreed.
Today, Mutu has established a reputation for himself as a reformed man at Fiorentina, remarrying and living a far cleaner lifestyle off the pitch—away from the world of porn stars and the devil's dandruff.
But the past has come back to haunt Mutu. Even the salary increase Mutu received from Fiorentina with his last contract will not be enough to compensate for the incredible sum staring Mutu right in the face.
Two options remain for Mutu: To take the case further into the court system and appeal at the EU level or to simply retire from the game and avoid having to pay the compensation altogether—remember, the decision was a ruling by the CAS, not a civil court and therefore is not applicable outside sport.
Time is ticking.
Chelsea would be foolish to expect the money back in one lump sum this summer and while Mutu's teammates at Fiorentina admirably have come together in a fund-raising effort for their teammate, it is entirely possible now that Mutu may soon become bankrupt should he decide to play on.
As the dust clears, the implications for the wider world of football are enormous. A precedent has been set whereby clubs can demand compensation from players for breach of contract but at a more fundamental level, it seems FIFA has finally decided where to draw the line with players.
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