Sunderland will find out next month whether they will be forced to shell out £8million for a player they do not own – former loanee Ricky Alvarez.
The Black Cats and Inter Milan have been at loggerheads for more than a year but the dispute is set to come to an end within weeks.
Should Sunderland lose the case, it would put a significant dent in the club’s already limited coffers with the January transfer window just around the corner.
Although, the Echo understands money has already been set aside in case of the worst case scenario.
The hefty transfer fee was originally agreed in Alvarez’s season-long loan switch to the Stadium of Light.
The fee became compulsory if the Black Cats were able to retain their Premier League status in 2014-15, which they successfully managed under Dick Advocaat.
Sunderland argued that Inter’s hesitation in approving knee surgery for the Argentine international was a breach of contract and justified them pulling out of the move.
A date has been set for the hearing, with the case due to be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on December 9 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
There is no doubt it would be a major blow to the Black Cats should they lose.
Sunderland – once again battling for Premier League survival – will need reinforcements when the window opens but the club is working under tight financial parameters.
Reinforcements in defence and attack will be key, especially with the club potentially losing four first team players for several weeks to the Africa Cup of Nations.
But funds for the January transfer window are limited and the wage bill is close to the Financial Fair Play regulations cap.
The long-running case involving Italian giants Inter Milan and Sunderland AFC is listed on the CAS website’s list of hearings for next month.
In the 2014-15 campaign, Alvarez made a total of 17 appearances for the Black Cats, scoring one goal during his short spell on Wearside. He made only five Premier League starts.
The dispute over his permanent transfer left the Argentinian midfielder in limbo, with neither Sunderland or Inter Milan wanting Alvarez back.
After a short spell without playing football, he was allowed to join Sampdoria on a short-term deal in January with special dispensation while his long-term future was decided.
The 28-year-old then signed for Sampdoria in the summer as a free agent and has since made nine appearances for the Italian side.
His latest appearance ironically came in Sampdoria’s 1-0 win over Inter at the end of October, with Alvarez coming on as a late substitute.