Chelsea are reportedly ready to step in if Manchester United go through with their plan to sack Cristiano Ronaldo.
The London club are back in the hunt for Ronaldo after an inconsistent start to the campaign under the ownership of Todd Boehly.
And if United’s lawyers give the Manchester club the go-ahead to sack the former Sporting Lisbon, Real Madrid and Juventus player then he will become a free agent.
That would leave them powerless to prevent him moving to Chelsea. And United do not want Ronaldo to join a club they view as rivals for a top-four place and are facing an agonising Catch-22 situation.
The club are taking legal advice on whether they can sack the 37-year-old following his astonishing TV outburst lambasting the club.
But their stance before Ronaldo appeared on Piers Morgan Uncensored last week was that they would allow the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to leave Old Trafford in January – on the understanding that he won’t join a Premier League rival.
Sporting Lisbon were hopeful of convincing Ronaldo to rejoin them – until they were dumped out of the Champions League. That offered United the solution to a problem that Erik ten Hag wanted solving even before Ronaldo slammed the Dutchman in the unauthorised interview.
Ronaldo’s criticisms have given them a problem they didn’t foresee. The Red Devils want to save on the £500,000-per–week wages they agreed to pay Ronaldo when he returned to the club in the summer of 2021.
There are also suggestions that the United could launch a lawsuit against Ronaldo by claiming his interview has damaged their reputation and caused huge financial loss.
Mike Treemer, Employment Partner at law firm Fladgate, believes Manchester United have got a strong case to sack Ronaldo – but says a claim for damages would not be as compelling.
Treemer said: “Most legal commentators now agree that United would be entitled to terminate Ronaldo’s contract following his recent behaviours – including his provocative interview with Piers Morgan. However, few would have predicted that they would go further and allege that his conduct has caused the club financial loss that they are entitled to recover from him.
“Employers pursuing such claims against employees is very rare because it is usually very difficult to prove that a financial loss has been suffered and to directly link that loss to the employee’s actions. In most cases, the high legal costs to be incurred coupled with the employee’s likely inability to pay any substantial damages will deter employees considering such a claim.
“But Ronaldo clearly has the means to pay up if United were to be successful. It is likely that the club will also be considering if third parties have encouraged Ronaldo to breach his contractual obligations – in which case they can also be pursued for the loss suffered.
“No doubt that was considered carefully by Morgan and Talk TV before they broadcast the interview. If any claim is pursued, the media attention and publicity is likely to considerably overshadow that received by the Wagatha Christie trial earlier this year.”