The transfer window has slammed shut on Manchester City's hopes of selling outcast Carlos Tevez this season, leaving them with a gifted striker who has probably burned too many bridges to be of any use to their Premier League title push.
Should Tevez return from self-imposed exile in Argentina and join his team mates for training, City face the prospect of having to resume paying high wages for a player who manager Roberto Mancini has said has no future at the club.
The league leaders had stopped his salary since he left for his homeland without their permission in November and imposed a fine of six weeks' pay on him for gross misconduct - a punishment he is appealing to the Premier League over.
Legal experts say City could probably find a way to terminate his contract if he continued to not turn up for work but the club would then lose out on a transfer fee as the player would be a free agent.
The high-risk option would be to release him and sue him for the loss of a transfer fee that local media estimate at 25-30 million pounds ($39-47 million) but there would be no guarantees for City that Tevez would be able to pay it.
"They are effectively at a stage of brinkmanship - there is not a lot that City can do other than ride out the storm," Matt Taylor, an associate at international law firm Eversheds, told Reuters.
"They can't do what you would ordinarily do in this situation and terminate the contract.
"If Manchester City wanted to be very aggressive and put down a marker for the whole of football to say that players aren't allowed to ride roughshod over clubs, they could consider terminating his contract for non-performance on Tevez's part and sue him for their losses.
"That would really take the wind out of his sails because then he would be facing a legal suit for 30 million pounds.
"But that's not very attractive for Manchester City because they have then got to go after an individual for the money... There would be all sorts of difficulties with tying him down to a particular legal jurisdiction and enforcing any judgment that goes against him."
There is a precedent for a club suing a former player for compensation with Chelsea having pursued Adrian Mutu after sacking him when he tested positive for cocaine in 2004.
City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak last week issued a strongly worded statement saying the club would hold Tevez to his contract if no buyer was found in the January window.
That could mean further fines if Tevez continues to breach his contract by staying away or if he does return he will be expected to resume training.
Even if he does start attending the Carrington training sessions, his chances of ever playing a match for the club he once captained look slim.
Mancini said Tevez was "finished" after refusing to warm up in a Champions League game at Bayern Munich in September and while he later held out an olive branch, he has since shut the door on a return.
But that was before Mancini's optimism of an imminent sale was wiped out as interest from AC Milan, Inter Milan and Paris St Germain came to nothing.
The Italian, who said this week there were no personal problems between him and Tevez, could possibly do with a striker as the Argentine's absence has left him with only three to choose from and Mario Balotelli is serving a four-match ban.
Mancini has been visibly tired of fielding Tevez-related questions at news conferences and while the matter does not appear to have affected their form, the team could do without the distractions as the title race hots up.
City's 1-0 loss at Everton on Tuesday has allowed Manchester United to draw level on points with their neighbours at the top as City's free-scoring ways have dried up a little of late.
Whether last season's joint top scorer in the league comes back to help City in their bid for a first league title since 1968 remains to be seen, but he could be happy just picking up a widely reported 200,000 pounds per week for merely training.
It could also be in his interest to rejoin his team mates to work on his fitness before the next transfer window when he is once again likely to be the subject of much speculation.
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