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Bielsa loses Lille dismissal claim

Lille (France) (AFP) – Leeds United’s Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa on Friday lost a 19 million euros ($22 million) damages claim against French club Lille, though the ruling by a French industrial tribunal is subject to appeal.

Bielsa, who will have to pay 5,000 euros in costs, has a month to appeal after the tribunal found in favour of Lille, who sacked him as coach in December 2017, only four months after he took the reins of the Ligue 1 side.

Bielsa had testified by video link in February that relations between himself and sporting director Luis Campos, advisor to then club chairman Gerard Lopez, were  poor. 

He said he endured two months of harassment which  undermined his authority and was designed to push him to resign. 

Bielsa said a pre-contract agreement included a clause that in the event of early termination he would have his contract fully paid, meaning he would receive more than 12 million euros. He also claimed 6 million euros in damages and interest.

But the tribunal found that the contract he eventually signed did not have that provision.

After a poor run of form, the club were in the drop zone when the 65-year-old was suspended and then sacked for misconduct over his poor relationship with staff. 

“I think the (tribunal’s) decision is a fair one,” Lille lawyer Bertrand Wambeke told AFP.

Bielsa’s counsel Benjamin Cabagno did not immediately comment.

The ruling is a relief to Lille, whose finances are precarious and have been made worse by the fallout from the pandemic.

Luxembourg-based investment fund Merlyn Partners, which took over in January, injected 50 million euros to keep the club afloat. 

After Lille won the Ligue 1 title, the owners allowed Christophe Galtier, who replaced Bielsa in December 2017, to join Nice who paid three million euros to secure his services.

Lille have yet to name a replacement for Galtier.

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