Explained: Sunderland's Papy Djilobodji decision and what happens next
Sunderland have this lunchtime released an explosive statement serving Papy Djilobodji notice of their intent to terminate his contract.
It is unlikely to be the end of an increasingly complex dispute but the Black Cats believe they are on solid legal ground.
Here, we outline the key details from the latest developments....
WHAT DOES THE STATEMENT MEAN?
The statement essentially means that Sunderland have given notice Papy Djilobodji that they intend to terminate his contract.
That contract is due to run to June 2020 but the Black Cats want to bring that to an early conclusion.
This statement is the start of that procedure.
WHAT IS THEIR CASE?
Perhaps the crucial line of the statement is as follows: "As a result, Sunderland AFC can confirm that it has accepted Papy Djilobodji’s repudiatory breaches of contract and notice of the same has been provided to the player."
The legal definition of a 'repudiatory breach' is as follows: "a material breach of contract [failure to perform a contractual obligation] so fundamental that allows the non-breaching party to sue for damages and terminate the contract."
It is understood that the Black Cats believe that Djilobodji has in effect terminated his contract unilaterally through a series of breaches over the summer.
The club gave Djilobodji written permission not to return for pre-season training in July at the player's request, with the 29-year-old eager to find a new club.
He was told, however, to stay fit in that time.
He returned to the Academy of Light last week, well after the agreed date, and was put through a series of fitness tests as any player would returning for pre-season.
Sunderland's statement says he 'comprehensively failed that test'.
As such, it is understood that they believe he is weeks, perhaps even months away from being fit enough to realistically play senior football.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
It is worth dwelling again on the term 'repudiatory breach'.
While Sunderland have accepted that they now will not receive a transfer fee for losing Djilobodji's services, they could yet pursue him in the courts.
Stewart Donald told talkSPORT on Tuesday that 'the question is whether they have done enough to be in breach of their contracts to terminate their contracts and pursue them for willfully devaluing themselves. That is the question.'
Clearly, on the first part he believes the club have a legal case and has now taken action.
The second is not yet clear but will become so in the coming weeks.
While the circumstances are different and the nature of any case is different, Chelsea pursued Adrian Mutu in the courts after sacking him for testing positive for drugs use. They recovered the fee they paid to sign him from Parma.
WHAT ARE DJILOBODJI'S OPTIONS?
Djilobodji could of course contest the decision as he stands to lose a small fortune in wages.
He cannot sign for another club until January even if he becomes a free agent, unless it is in a league where the window remains open. Those are few and far between.
Clearly, he has also been angling for a Sunderland exit all summer.
What his defence would be should Sunderland pursue him for devaluing himself is unclear.
An article in L'Equipe earlier this week claimed that Djilobodji did not hear from Sunderland in August.
The club statement said that the defender 'had ignored written requests for his return'.
What Djilobodji decides to do next is not known but the Black Cats certainly believe they are on strong legal footing.
DO SUNDERLAND STILL OWE CHELSEA MONEY FOR DJILOBODJI?
No. Sunderland very recently paid the final installment on what remains one of the club's biggest ever purchases.
Stewart Donald told the Roker Report podcast that it had been a 'galling' cheque to write.
IS DIDIER NDONG NEXT?
Charlie Methven admitted last week that the two situations were different given that Ndong is still AWOL.
As recently as Tuesday, Stewart Donald said that the Gabonese midfielder's whereabouts are still unknown.
The Black Cats have withheld his wages in the interim period with the 24-year-old missing out on a number of moves, including Benfica and Torino.
So the situation is not identical but Ndong's absence has been a source of similar frustration and so action at some stage does seem likely.
THE CLUB STATEMENT IN FULL
"Sunderland AFC has given notice under its contract with Papy Djilobodji. Djilobodji, who was under contract to SAFC until June 2020, indicated in June 2018 that he wished to leave the club.
"In order to facilitate that desire, the club entered into a written agreement with the player allowing him to spend the month of July on voluntary unpaid leave.
"When that period came to an end, the player was expected either to leave for a new club – having reached a deal satisfactory to himself and SAFC - or to return in shape to play professional football. Instead, he returned to Sunderland over a month later, in the first week of September, ignoring written requests for his return. On his return, he was subjected to the same fitness test that his fellow professionals had undertaken on their return. He comprehensively failed that test.
"As a result, Sunderland AFC can confirm that it has accepted Papy Djilobodji’s repudiatory breaches of contract and notice of the same has been provided to the player."