Shortly before the Champions League semifinal draw, UEFA released a curious statement on "integrity of competitions." The statement was a direct response to the revelation that Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is on loan from Chelsea, had a clause in his deal stating that if the two sides met in the Champions League, Atletico would have to pay Chelsea €3 million per match to use him against his parent club. Atletico's president announced after the quarterfinals that the club would not be able to afford this fee, therefore if the two sides met, Courtois would not play.
That was on Wednesday. Fast forward to 45 minutes before Friday's semifinal draw and UEFA's ruling on the matter drops out of the sky. From UEFA.com:
In response to media reports referring to the situation of Club Atlético de Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, UEFA would like to reiterate its position.
The integrity of sporting competition is a fundamental principle for UEFA.
Both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations contain clear provisions which strictly forbid any club to exert, or attempt to exert, any influence whatsoever over the players that another club may (or may not) field in a match.
It follows that any provision in a private contract between clubs which might function in such a way as to influence who a club fields in a match is null, void and unenforceable so far as UEFA is concerned.
Furthermore, any attempt to enforce such a provision would be a clear violation of both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations and would therefore be sanctioned accordingly.
So Chelsea's clever clause was null and void according to UEFA and if they tried to enforce it, European football's governing body would punish them. This contradicts UEFA's ruling on a similar matter involving Celtic, Elfsborg and Mo Bangura just last summer ("Any agreement between the two clubs that this player wouldn’t play against Celtic should Elfsborg be drawn against them is purely between the clubs") and what journalist Sid Lowe tweeted shortly after UEFA's statement was released.
Curiously, UEFA yesterday briefed that rules do not say anything about loans and that therefore any agreement Chelsea-Atletico would stand
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) April 11, 2014
But it wouldn't be a UEFA ruling without a heavy dose of contradiction.
With that still hypothetical matter cleared up, it was then time for the draw. And guess how the match-ups came out!
Real Madrid v Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea
Given the limited options, the odds were good that the Courtois derby would happen, but the fact that it came true just after UEFA announced this new ruling is sure to feed conspiracy theorists for weeks.
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