As far as everyone is concerned, Memphis Depay is basically a Lyon player.
While the Manchester United forward’s transfer is yet to be made official, the French club’s Twitter account published a picture of the player in Lyon on Wednesday night, who quickly travelled to finalise the proceedings.
The Red Devils, who spent over £25m to sign Depay from PSV Eindhoven in 2015, have done well to recoup most of the original fee paid, providing he meets the bonuses included by Lyon.
Despite all of this looking rosy, and everyone in France and England mostly agreeing on the financial side of things, one detail remains a source of disagreement: the so called buy-back clause.
Every British outlet, including the BBC, have reported Manchester United included a buy-back clause in the deal with Lyon, which would allow them to cut the player’s time in France short if he performs well, in exchange for the agreed price in the clause.
A perfect example of this is what Real Madrid did with Alvaro Morata in the summer, paying a pre-agreed £25.5m to Juventus following the striker’s two seasons in Italy to bring him back to the Bernabeú.
However, the vast majority of the French journalists insist there is no such clause in the deal taking Depay to Ligue 1.
Why? Because such clauses are illegal in France.
The only ones going along with the buy-back clause scenario are Le Parisien, with the amount, according to their sources, being somewhere above €30m.
Yet, a quick look at Article 202 of LFP’s administrative rules regarding players and managers tells you everything you need to know about the situation, quashing Le Parisien’s claims in the process.
It states: “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.”
Considering a buy-back clause falls under those terms as it would be a pre-agreement that would ‘breach the contract’ Depay and both clubs are about to sign, it seems there is little chance of one being included in the deal.
What can be done, however, is the inclusion of a ‘first option’ agreement, meaning were Lyon to accept a bid for Depay down the line, they would then have to notify Manchester United, who in turn would be able to match said offer with their own, with it being automatically accepted.
Either that, or both parties negotiated a “gentleman’s agreement” regarding a buy-back price, which would therefore never be officially signed off on, but could be ‘triggered’ in the future by the Premier League side.
Lyon wouldn’t legally have to accept the offer, but you may expect them to nonetheless if they hold aspirations of dealing with Manchester United in the future.
It could simply be the Red Devils announced the buy-back clause as official to journalists in order to appease the fans following the rather monumental cock-up that was letting Paul Pogba leave to Juventus on a free before buying him back for £89m three years later.
The rules in France, however, are very clear: no official buy-back clauses. And any side agreement simply isn’t enforceable.