Lazio had many different options on how they would treat Vladimir Petkovic’s decision to sign for Switzerland from July 2014. They made the worst possible choices and have created an entirely unnecessary legal battle that will damage the club, team, fans and probably cost more than if they’d just accepted it in the first place. What a dreadful end to this tale just six months after wild Coppa Italia celebrations.
President Claudio Lotito is incredibly litigious – this is no secret, as seen by his actions with Goran Pandev, Mauro Zarate and Cristian Ledesma, among others. His eagerness to get into a legal fight has perhaps gone too far this time and he cannot possibly come out of this situation looking good. In fact, it’s practically certain it will cost more to drag it out through the courts than it would’ve done to just keep paying Petkovic’s wages for the remaining six months. With a little common decency, the Coach could even have agreed to terminate the contract by mutual consent. Lotito’s refusal to even attend those negotiations made it clear he had no intention of keeping it civil.
The facts are that Petkovic signed for Switzerland six months before his contract with Lazio expired, so he was under no legal obligation to the club. He may well have denied there were talks with the Swiss Federation, but to call this a breach of contract is a rather extreme interpretation and one that if supported in the courts would effectively wipe out hundreds of transfer deals. Was Fernando Llorente in breach when agreeing a move to Juventus while still at Athletic Bilbao? Should CSKA Moscow sue Keisuke Honda and Milan for damages ahead of his arrival? Lotito might not like the treatment of contracts, but he should take that up with Jean-Marc Bosman, not Petkovic.
It was always said Petkovic was admired by fans all over Italy, as he was a gentleman and did not resort to underhand mind games or sniping criticism. To see him treated this way is simply shoddy. By all means, terminate the contract by mutual consent if you don’t want him staying on the bench as a ‘lame duck’ Coach for six months, but trying to ruin his reputation to save a measly €600,000 in wages is pathetically vindictive. Now Edy Reja must begin his tenure with this chaos going on around him when he could’ve happily been comparing notes with his predecessor. Not for the first time, Lotito has taken a bad situation and made it 10 times worse with his stubbornly litigious nature.
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.