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Inter and Sunderland fight over Alvarez deal, FIFA intervention possible

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Sunderland are trying to get out of their preexisting agreement to keep Ricky Alvarez and FIFA might need to step in.

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Since it is now the end of the season, players out on loan will be looking at their contracts to see where they will be heading over the summer. With multi-year deals, options to buy, obligations to buy, appearance requirements and other clauses, loans can quickly become more complicated for clubs than they originally intended, sometimes leaving teams with unintended consequences.

The case of Ricardo "Ricky" Alvarez is quickly approaching that point. After not really consistently impressing at Inter Milan, club management decided to send him out on loan and Sunderland expressed their interest in the Argentine midfielder. He joined the English club with a loan fee of €1.5M and a clause stating that if Sunderland would be obligated to purchase Alvarez for €7.5M at the end of the 14/15 season if the club was able to stay in the Premier League. Given that at the time of the loan deal Alvarez was worth €14.5M, this looked like a pretty good deal for Sunderland.

When this season came to a close Sunderland were 16th in the Premier League, 3 points clear of relegation. As such, Inter believed that the attacking midfielder would be staying in North-East England. But Sunderland had other ideas. Over the course of the season Alvarez had a series of knee injuries and now needs surgery for this problem. This back and forth shuffle from the injury table saw the 27 year old restricted to only 5 league starts and 17 appearances in all competitions. With him playing in so few matches Sunderland believed that this lack of playing time would be a suitable excuse for them to get out of their obligation to purchase the player who they did not get much value out of.

I must imagine that when Inter management heard this they laughed for a few good minutes until they realize that Sunderland management was being serious. Sporting Director Ausilio was adamant that there is no appearances or injury clause in the loan agreement. When speaking to the press he countered their argument, stating "We made an agreement, a transfer which requires Sunderland to make permanent with them staying up. This occurred so we do not do anything but wait. For us he is absolutely a player of Sunderland. Sunderland was saved, this was the only condition..."

With Sunderland continuing to resist paying up, Inter are considering appealing to FIFA to intervene and make a ruling on this case. Provided that there is not any appearance/injury clause in the original contract, this really should be a simple case favoring Inter. Both sides made an agreement and now Sunderland is trying to get out of it simply because he did not perform to their satisfaction. The only way that they could possibly get a ruling in their favor is if they can prove that Inter knew about his consistent knee problems and did not disclose that information to Sunderland in order for the deal to go through***. This is pretty unlikely though since Alvarez would have had a medical when first arriving at his new club and a major consistent injury would likely have shown up there (and since in the 13/14 season Alvarez made 34 appearances for Inter).

If FIFA has to step in it looks considerably more likely than not that Inter would win. With this in mind Sunderland probably pushed back against the original contract hoping that Inter would roll over and take him back without much fuss, or at least give them a reduction in the purchasing price. Seeing as this looks unlikely at this point, we will have to see how this ends; if Sunderland pays up, Inter relents and either takes him back or takes a price cut, or if FIFA has to step in. Though I'm pretty sure FIFA would not exactly be very happy dealing with this case, they kinda have bigger problems to deal with right now...

(*** This is just my opinion, I am not a lawyer yet and do not have expertise in contract or international sports law.)