Sunderland have launched a £20m court action against a leading law firm in the latest chapter of the legal saga stemming from the signing of flop Ricky Alvarez in 2014. The Black Cats were forced to pay Alvarez’s former club Inter Milan £8.8m plus costs, and pay the player almost £5m in wages, following a hearing in front of football’s world governing body FIFA.

Separately, Alvarez successfully brought a claim against Sunderland for wrongful termination of his contract, with FIFA’s dispute resolution chamber ordering the club to pay £4.2m plus interest. Sunderland appealed against the FIFA ruling in the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport but their appeal was thrown out, and CAS instead allowed Alvarez’s cross-appeal and ordered the club to pay the player £4.77m plus £1.1m in interest.

Sunderland claim that London law firm Mishcon de Reya – who were acting for the club – filed an electronic copy of the appeal on time but missed a deadline to file hard copies of documents with CAS which in turn denied the club the opportunity to overturn the judgements already made and recoup their money,ccording to a report in the Law Society Gazette. The High Court has now heard that Mishcon de Reya has admitted breach of duty by failing to file a hard copy on time, but denies that the breach caused any loss to the club arguing ‘it is inevitable that CAS would have dismissed Sunderland’s appeal’.
Richard Salter QC, sitting as a High Court judge, ruled that Sunderland should provide further disclosure but said it was not ‘necessary or useful … for there to be the very extensive disclosure which the defendant is seeking’, inviting the parties to agree the scope of disclosure. The trial of Sunderland’s claim is likely to be heard early next year.
This case is the latest instalment of a story that began almost eight years ago, when Argentine midfielder Alvarez joined Sunderland in the summer of 2014, initially on loan but with an agreement that the transfer would become permanent if a pre-existing knee injury did not become worse. But Alvarez’s time on Wearside was punctuated by injuries and eventually a specialist recommended surgery, but Sunderland say Inter Milan did not give permission for the operation and they therefore terminated the transfer and the player’s contract.
That led to Inter Milan and the player bringing proceedings against Sunderland through FIFA, and the judgements that the Black Cats tried to overturn at CAS. Alvarez made just 17 appearances for Sunderland in all competitions, and scored one goal.