Matuzalem CAS Award Commentary

Article excerpt

Preamble

After the revolutionary road that the Webster's case seemed to have opened in 2008, only a year after appeared a new award that hit the news and became the latest of the legal sports law gossip.

In that particular moment, as the lawyer of the winning side, the Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, I received a lot of felicitations and calls regarding the final decision of one of the (again) leading cases from the CAS.

One of them, from a journalist, focused his questions not on the legal points or on the issues where that award could drive the football world but merely on how I feel to have won against myself.

I was really happy, as any lawyer is when winning such a relevant dispute but that precise thought has not crossed my mind. However, I commenced to wonder about that remark and I immediately reminded that my first thought was that article 17 of the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players is like the 1001 Nights of the legendary Arabic tales, "all different and marvelous". So, the contractual stability and the possibility to terminate a professional contract by a footballer ante tempus was not to be decided on a single angle but on a case-by-case basis and each proceedings will end with a different award, depending on several factors and multiple criteria.

Facts

On the 27th of November 2007, The FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber awarded FC Shakhtar Donetsk, the sum of 6,800,000 [euro] to be paid by Matuzalem Francelino da Silva, hereinafter "Matuzalem" or "the Player", and for the first time explained how and why the final sum of a compensation has been reached. As it is well known, FIFA deciding bodies were not specially prepared to give their thoughts about how an amount for indemnity is reached when a contract has been breached.

Matuzalem arrived at Shakhtar Donetsk from Brescia Calcio Spa, hereinafter "Brescia", in the summer of 2004 for a fee of EUR 8,000,000. In two seasons the player had developed into the team's most talented player and was appointed as the captain.

On the July 2 2007, Matuzalem terminated his playing contract with his Ukrainian club, Shakhtar Donetsk. He had served three years of a five year playing contract worth approximately EUR 1,200,000 each year. When Matuzalem terminated his contract, his club was two weeks from the commencement of their UEFA Champion's League qualification rounds. Matuzalem signed a playing contract with Real Zaragoza for three seasons with an annual remuneration of approximately EUR 1,000,000 not including bonuses on 19 July.

On July 17 2008, the Player was transferred to SS Lazio Spa, "Lazio", after the clubs and the Player agreed to a loan agreement. Included in the loan agreement was an option to purchase the Player's registration rights for EUR 13,000,000 or EUR 14,000,000 plus VAT (1).

Matuzalem signed a three year playing contract with Lazio, the final two years of which would become active should Lazio choose to exercise their purchase option. The annual salary for the first season of this contract was EUR 895,000 and EUR 3,220,900 for the second and third seasons.

Matuzalem decided to terminate his contract with Shakhtar prematurely and unilaterally using the possibility given by article 17 of the FIFA Regulations. The Club informed him that he could only extinguish his contract and a join a new club if he paid the EUR 25,000,000 buy-out clause stipulated in Article 3.3 of the Player's contract.

It is likely that the Player had received advice that he would be able to terminate his contract prematurely and he would only have to pay his former Club the amount that was owed to him as future contractual salaries.

He also would not receive any sporting sanctions as the "Protected Period (2)" of his contract had expired. This would have been strict compliance to the jurisprudence set by the CAS in the Webster (3) decision. …