Cristiano Ronaldo could all but force Manchester United to sell him to Real Madrid if he is hell bent on leaving, according to a leading employment lawyer.
United yesterday reiterated their refusal to listen to bids for the Portugal winger, who has indicated his desire to join the Spanish giants this summer.
On the face of it, Ronaldo is tied to United until his contract expires in 2012 and could only leave if the European champions agree to sell him.
However, the situation is more complex than that, according to James Davies, joint head of the employment and incentives department at London-based law firm Lewis Silkin.
“Basic employment law provision would be that if he were to walk out on his contract, he would be in breach and Manchester United could try to hold him to it by forcing him to honour it,” Davies said in the Times.
“They could say that they require him to play, or threaten to put him on gardening leave, by sticking him in the reserves.
“The problem with that is that you’re paying the player a fortune and if they don’t want to stay, the pressure is strong to let him go because you will get millions of pounds and you won’t have to pay his wage.
“If they did want to stick him in the reserves, the question of how long you can put an employee on gardening leave for is not clear, legally.
“Ronaldo could say that his skills will atrophy if he doesn’t get to play at the top level, or that he has a right to play, so he could sue. That is a tough point of employment law. At the end of the day, these situations usually result in the player going.”