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Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Friday, 2 April 2010 18:11 UK

Liverpool to discover Nabil El Zhar compensation fate

By John Sinnott

Nabil El Zhar
El Zhar signed a new contract in 2009

Fifa has promised a decision in the "near future" over St Etienne's claim for £160,000 relating to their training of Liverpool's Nabil El Zhar.

The Morocco international, now 23, joined Liverpool in October 2006 and signed a new deal in July 2009.

The French club argues it is entitled to a compensation payment as it helped develop El Zhar between 2004 and 2006.

"The investigation commenced in 2008," Fifa told BBC Sport. "Investigation of the affair is now concluded."

El Zhar was with St Etienne between 2004 and 2006 on a scholarship contract after he joined the Ligue 1 club from Nimes Olympique, before moving to Liverpool at the age of 20 when he signed a professional deal.

"Given Liverpool's size, history and wealth we're disappointed we haven't received compensation - €180,000 (£162,000) is 0.1% of Liverpool's turnover," St Etienne sporting director Damien Comolli told BBC Sport.

"On top of that the player has recently signed a new deal so they must be happy with him and his performances."

All those add-ons and the sell-on should be fixed by Fifa

St Etienne sporting director Damien Comolli

In 2008 Liverpool successfully defended a claim brought by St Etienne for compensation in respect of El Zhar's alleged breach of contract with Fifa's Dispute Resolution Chamber ruling that the French club had no grounds for their claim.

It was after that decision that St Etienne brought proceedings before Fifa regarding the compensation training claim.

"The claim is currently pending determination by Fifa and we await the outcome of its deliberations," said a Liverpool statement, initially released to the BBC following a Football Focus investigation in October. "As such, we do not feel it appropriate to make further comment at this stage."

The Fifa statement, sent on Tuesday, added: "The investigation can be submitted to the competent deciding body for consideration and a formal decision [made] in the near future."

It costs St Etienne more than £3m per annum to run their academy, which since 1997 has produced a number of players that have been sold, bringing in more than £25m in transfer fees.

"We've been producing an average of one-and-a-half first-team players per annum over the last five years and four of our current starters have come through the ranks," added Comolli.

Earlier this month the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that clubs can seek compensation for young players they have trained if they go on to sign their first contract with a team in another EU country.

The ruling has been interpreted as a victory for clubs that develop young players, but a leading sports lawyer believes the judgement will allow top European clubs to snap up emerging talent without having to pay the player's true value.

"In reality, the net effect is that clubs have to be paid, but not very much," said Adam Morallee, a partner at Mishcon de Reya Solicitors, reflecting on the ECJ ruling.

"When dealing with top talent, the size of the payment for the big club is likely to be small in relation to the potential value of the player.

"The added bonus for the clubs is that if they pay, they won't be in breach of contract or procuring a breach and then won't get a Gael Kakuta-like punishment from Fifa," added Morallee, referring to the recent dispute between Chelsea and Lens over the French winger's move to Stamford Bridge in 2007.

Comolli would like to see Fifa introduce a tribunal system that requires buying clubs to pay add-on fees to provide protection for clubs that develop young players.

"I am not a dreamer," said Comolli. "A club cannot impose on a player to sign his first pro contract in the club where he signed his scholarship. Players can sign wherever they want due to the freedom of movement principle.

"But I would like to see a different compensation system organized by Fifa - a mix of the current system and of the English one.

"For example if a club signs a talented player they should pay a fixed amount, plus add-ons - £500,000 for 20 starts, another £500,000 for 40 starts and £1m for a full cap and a sell-on to be paid to us if the boy is sold.

"All those add-ons and the sell-on should be fixed by Fifa within the compensation system in order to avoid long and painful discussions.

"I think that would be a fairer system which will protect clubs who are developing players."

French academy row - Football Focus investigates

French academy row - Football Focus investigates

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see also
El Zhar signs new Liverpool deal
11 Jul 09 |  Liverpool
Clubs can seek money for trainees
16 Mar 10 |  Football
Man Utd in clear over Pogba deal
07 Oct 09 |  Man Utd
Court lifts Chelsea transfer ban
04 Feb 10 |  Chelsea

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