The legal battle between Roy Keane and Alf Inge Haaland will boil down to a judge’s assessment of conflicting medical evidence.
Haaland and his club Manchester City are set to pursue Keane through the courts following the Irishman’s admission that he deliberately set out to injure the Norwegian midfielder at Old Trafford in April last year.
A compensation claim of up to £6m (€9.4m) is expected to be lodged against Keane and his employers Manchester United, with Haaland facing the prospect of being forced into retirement because of his failure to recover from a long-standing injury to his left knee.
Although Keane’s horrific tackle caught him on the right, Haaland is expected to argue that the impact exacerbated problems in his other leg.
And, even though Haaland subsequently admitted he initially had suffered no ill-effects from Keane’s tackle, top sports lawyer Max Duthie still expects the case to go to court.
“If I was in Alf Inge Haaland’s position I would almost feel compelled to do something about this,” he said.
“What he has said about the tackle will not help his case but I still believe he has a good chance of succeeding.
“Being told that a fellow professional deliberately set out to injure you must be a bitter pill to swallow and he will want to take action.
“You could argue why he didn’t do this 18 months ago but this is a pretty miserable state of affairs.”
United, who as Keane’s employers are almost duty-bound to stand by their player rather than distance themselves from his actions, are almost certain to provide conflicting medical evidence in a case which Duthie believes will take over 12 months to solve.
“The case will probably boil down to a judge’s interpretation of the medical evidence and the percentage of damage caused by the tackle.
“Even if Haaland can prove the tackle caused more problems to his left leg, Keane will no doubt claim the injury he was already carrying are a greater reason for his present condition.
“Then it is down to the judge to decide just how much Keane is liable.”
Two similar high-profile cases have had contrasting results, with Chelsea’s Paul Elliott failing in a claim against Dean Saunders for a tackle which ended his career, while Gordon Watson was awarded almost £1m (€1.56m) after Kevin Gray was found to have committed reckless tackle which threatened the Bradford striker’s career.
And Duthie believes the vast amounts of money on offer in the domestic game means more cases of this kind will end up in court.
“Manchester City will think why should they carry on paying someone vast amounts of money when he can’t play because of an injury caused by someone else,” he said.
“If you can go to court and recover your costs you will do. The difference between the salaries paid now and those of 20 years ago is huge.
“I would imagine that in the future more and more clubs will look to the courts to solve situations such as these.”