Manchester United, Lyon & Memphis Depay’s “buy-back clause” – why the impossible is still possible

Much has been made of concerning whether or not a buy-back clause has been included in a deal between Lyon and Manchester United for Memphis Depay, with all English reports, including the BBC, stating that such an agreement exists, whereas RMC state that there is no such agreement in place.

This article follows an excellent piece written by Tom Coast for Sport Witness, who makes the case that a buy-back clause is in fact impossible owing to LFP regulations, specifically article 202 of the league body’s administrative literature:

“Club directors cannot sign off on a contract containing a ‘release clause’ (pre-agreeing, in exchange for compensation, the breach of the contract by either of the contracting parties), ‘cancellation clause’ or a unilateral termination clause with a French or foreign professional player, whether it be with the player or the club.

Coast concludes that the only way in which such an agreement could have been reached between Lyon and Manchester United is if there was a “first refusal” clause, which would allow the Red Devils to be notified to match any future offer that OL intend to accept coming from an interested party for Depay. Alternatively, Coast alludes to the possibility of a “gentleman’s agreement” concerning a buy-back clause which he states is not something that would be legally binding.

Whilst Coast’s assertions are well-measured, there has been a move on the part of Ligue 1 clubs to sign separate agreements between themselves and the player or his representatives, not submitted to the LFP, which would allow for a buy-back clause to be agreed between those two parties.

So, in the case of Depay, in the documents signed and seen by the LFP, there cannot be a buy-back clause agreed between Manchester United, Lyon and the player. However, and this is speculation, if there were to be such a buy-back clause in existence as reported by the English outlets, Lyon would likely sign a separate agreement with the player that agrees to there being a buy-back clause in his contract.

Notable examples of activity like this include the recent contract extension agreement between OGC Nice and Alassane Pléa, which is widely accepted to include a separate contract between club and player in which a €50m release clause exists, a type of clause that would be illegal in a contract overseen by the LFP.

In the case of Alassane Pléa, the release clause of €50m is set to become legally binding when his contract extension is signed in the coming days, an obligation on the part of OGC Nice to let the player go in the event that such an offer is made, an agreement with the player and his representatives.

This is an alternative to the two possibilities that Coast set out in his piece, and it is one that is becoming increasingly popular in French football’s highest division.


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