GENEVA: Sport's highest court of appeal ordered Adrian Mutu to pay his former club Chelsea euro17.2 million (US$24.2 million) compensation Friday after the Blues fired him for using cocaine.
The ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is a stunning defeat for the Romania striker, who appealed a FIFA decision last year to award Chelsea the record sum in damages for a football dispute.
The CAS panel of three lawyers dismissed Mutu's appeal after finding that he had breached his contract.
Mutu, who now plays in Italy for Fiorentina, was "as calm as a person can be who received a hit like this," his lawyer Paolo Rodella was quoted saying on the fiorentinanews.com Web site.
A Romanian TV station reported that Mutu is worth between euro13-14 million ($18-20 million) and the payment would bankrupt him.
Mutu was fired in October 2004 after testing positive for cocaine, and was banned from football worldwide for seven months.
Chelsea had paid 15 million pounds (now $24.7 million; euro17.6 million) to sign Mutu from Parma in 2003.
But it got nothing when Mutu joined Juventus as a free agent after serving his ban.
Rodella told Italy's Sky Sport 24 channel that Mutu would appeal the decision.
Mutu has a single appeal route - the Swiss Federal Court, which has sent back one CAS ruling for retrial in 25 years.
It can examine whether he was denied fair legal process, but not the details of the verdict.
CAS is expected to publish a full judgment explaining the panel's reasons next week.
The CAS verdict - its third separate ruling in the case - ends Chelsea's long pursuit for compensation to recover the value of the player it lost when firing Mutu, then aged 25, in October 2004.
The saga began in August 2003 during the west London club's spending spree fueled by its then new owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea paid Italian club Parma more than 15 million pounds to sign Mutu, who was already an established international and had made a series of big-money moves in Romania and Italy.
Mutu's performances at Stamford Bridge declined in his second season and he tested positive for cocaine in September 2004.
He accepted the result and did not ask for his backup "B" sample to be analyzed.
The English Football Association banned him for seven months, prompting Chelsea to terminate his contract for misconduct.
Mutu appealed his firing to the English Premier League which backed the London club. He appealed to CAS where he also lost in December 2005.
By then, the Romania striker was playing for Italian club Juventus having negotiated the deal as a free agent while suspended.
Juventus sold Mutu after one full season in Turin for euro8 million to Serie A rival Fiorentina.
Mutu has since enjoyed the most successful and sustained run of form in his career at the Florence club where he wears the coveted No. 10 shirt.
He scored 13 goals last season, helping the Viola to a fourth-place finish and entry to the qualifying stages of the Champions League.
Chelsea, meanwhile, had received nothing from Juventus and asked FIFA to rule on its compensation claim against Mutu using the global governing body's rules on breach of contract.
FIFA said in 2006 that it had no power to decide the case, but Chelsea successfully appealed that decision at CAS.
In May 2007 the court ordered the matter back to FIFA, whose disputes panel settled on the euro17.2 million figure last summer.
The case arrived in Lausanne for a third time when Mutu's appeal to annul the award was heard last May 7.
Chelsea argued it should be compensated for the value of a future transfer fee it wrote off when firing him.
Mutu was supported by FIFPro, the international players' union, which argued that Mutu had no say in the large fee Chelsea paid for him, and that Juventus should be jointly liable to pay any compensation award.
FIFPro also said the Romanian was discriminated against on the grounds of nationality because FIFA can rule only in international disputes.
"If, instead of Mutu, it had been a player with a British passport, the (FIFA disputes panel) could have dismissed the case," FIFPro said in a statement last year. - AP
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