Sunderland intend to sue two of their players for punitive damages after they failed to return to training following the club’s relegation to League One.
The Black Cats have already informed former Chelsea defender Papy Djilobodji that they intend to terminate his contract after he returned to training a month late and then failed routine fitness tests.
And they are likely to take similar action against former Lorient midfielder Didier Ndong, the club’s record signing at £13.6m, after he also failed to return to training, when asked, over the summer.
Djilobodji, who signed for £8m from Chelsea in the summer of 2016, was given a month’s unpaid leave in July in order to try and find a new club, but when he was unable to do so, still refused to return to the club.
Despite several written instructions for him to resume training, the 29-year-old ignored the requests and when he did finally did appear at the Academy of Light, on September 5th, he was in not in shape to play or train with the first team.
Sunderland believe this gives them grounds to dismiss a player who earns around £30,000-a-week, although the player is likely to appeal given the financial ramifications of losing his job.
Significantly, if his contract is terminated, that would allow Djilobodji to sign for another club as a free agent, depriving Sunderland of a transfer fee.
They believe a precedent to seek punitive damages was set by Chelsea when they sued striker Adrian Mutu, after sacking him for failing a drug test in 2004, when he resumed his playing career with Juventus.
Sunderland owner Stewart Donald, who completed his takeover earlier this year following relegation from the Championship, admitted earlier this week that they had budgeted for a season in the third tier without both Djilobodji and Ndong on the wage bill.
The club released a statement which said: “Sunderland AFC has given notice under its contract with Papy Djilobodji.