If you have misbehaved in your job, there’s a chance that you could be fired – many firms have a HR department that is well-versed in employment law and how to manipulate this in their favour.
But in football, it’s very difficult – nigh-on impossible, in fact – for a club to simply sack a contracted player.
In fact, the only real chance they have to do so is if the player has committed an offence that can be filed under the ‘gross misconduct’ category – and even then the club may be forced via legal action to pay that individual some kind of compensation based upon their salary and length of contract.
All of which makes the situations involving Kylian Mbappe and Jadon Sancho at PSG and Manchester United that bit more complicated.
Mbappe has refused to sign a new contract with the Parisians, which means he will be able to walk away for free in the summer of 2024 – suitors like Real Madrid, who the Frenchman has openly admitted his interested in joining, will be ready to pounce.
Sancho, meanwhile, has had an almighty fall-out with his manager, Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman had criticised his player’s efforts in training, to which Sancho replied with a social media post bemoaning his perceived status as a ‘scapegoat’. He will not play for United again until he apologises, so says Ten Hag.
The upshot is that neither has committed a crime so heinous as to be sacked, so given that they are under contract there is a Mexican stand-off to overcome.
One way that coaches can overcome that is to ban the players from their first team squad, sending them off into a footballing Siberia….
Personal Training Programmes
A press statement released by United revealed that Sancho would be embarking on a ‘personal training programme away from the first team.’ Mbappe was only punished for his insolence by being forced to train with a secondary group of players away from the main PSG squad during August, a month in which clubs step up their preparations in readiness for the new season.
Although United tried to put a PR slant on it, Sancho has been subjected to one of the oldest and most humiliating punishments in football: being made to ‘train with the kids.’
It’s a move designed to humble the individual in question, forcing them to consider their behaviour and ask themselves whether eating humble pie and apologising – and being welcomed back into the first-team picture – would be more agreeable than ‘rotting’ in the reserves.
There are serious implications of the move. Sancho will be training at a lower intensity, while his game time is likely to come from minutes in the Under-23s side – again at a much lower level than the Premier League. All of which means he will need time to regain match sharpness; impacting upon his chances of a permanent transfer or loan switch somewhere else.
All told, the situation is a complete mess….
If it’s of any consolation to Mbappe and Sancho, they’re not the first footballers to be sanctioned in this way. Paul Pogba, a former Manchester United ace, was made to train alone by Sir Alex Ferguson after it was alleged that his agent, Mino Raiola, was agitating for a move to Juventus on his client’s behalf.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was said to have committed a ‘disciplinary breach’ at Arsenal after returning back late from a leave of absence, was banished to train alone by Mikel Arteta before being packed off to Chelsea.
But the punishment does sometimes have a positive effect. Luis Suarez was sent to train away from the first team at Liverpool by Brendan Rodgers – the striker getting all sulky after his dream move to Barcelona was blocked by the Reds in 2013. After a period in isolation, Suarez must have realised that to do his talking on the pitch was the better option, because he returned to the fray and netted 31 goals as Liverpool almost claimed a maiden Premier League title.
Can a Footballer Be Sacked By Their Club?
A club cannot sack one of their players simply because they aren’t playing very well – that would breach all manner of employment laws.
They must have a viable reason to give their player the boot, with the general definition of ‘bringing the club into disrepute’ used as a benchmark for when an individual can be sacked or not.
So when Dennis Wise got into a fight with Leicester City teammate Callum Davidson that left the latter with cuts, bruises and broken bones, the Foxes had legal grounds for sacking the midfielder – which they did, citing that he had brought the club into disrepute.
Others have been given the boot as a result of similarly serious infractions. Adrian Mutu tested positive for cocaine back in 2004 – a clear breach of his playing contract at Chelsea, who were legally obliged to sack him. When Nicolas Anelka performed the anti-Semitic ‘quenelle’ celebration after scoring a goal for West Brom, legal eagles upheld that the Baggies had grounds to sack the Frenchman for gross misconduct.
And when Patrice Evra unleashed a karate kick at a Marseille supporter back in 2017, it was agreed that – unsurprisingly – that act also construed gross misconduct.