Sport Lisboa e Benfica is an internationally renowned football club and at first glance it seems they have little in common with a small, struggling third division team from central Sweden. But Västerås Sportklubb and SL Benfica are busy fighting out a vicious off-pitch battle, as Carla Pereira explains.
Victor Nilsson Lindelöf completed a season and a half for Västerås before moving to Benfica in 2012, for a fee of approximately €100,000, or 1 million Swedish Krona (SEK). Allegedly, the transfer agreement stipulated that an additional fee of €275,000 should be paid after the Swede had played 10 competitive games for Benfica, as well as guaranteeing 15-20% of any future transfer fee.
Lindelöf has enjoyed considerable success in Lisbon, first for Benfica B and later with Benfica’s first team, for whom he made his first appearance in October 2013. He debuted for Sweden’s under-21 team in October 2014, and received his first senior international call-up in March 2016, for the friendly matches against Turkey and the Czech Republic. He started all three group games for Sweden at Euro 2016.
Since Lindelöf has now played 35 matches for Benfica, the first clause should already have been triggered. Or should it? According to Västerås, Benfica believe that since Lindelöf signed a new contract before the clause was activated, the old contract is null and void, and the fee should not be paid. The defender inked a new deal in June 2015, some months before he made his tenth appearance for the Eagles.
The Västerås vice-president, Christina Liffner, has gone on record about the dispute, stating that: "The money was supposed to pay off our debts and give us positive capital. We didn't budget for this payment, but after [Victor] played his tenth game [for Benfica], we've obviously been counting on getting it without hassle. It's impossible to misunderstand the agreement."
The Swedish club has filed a suit with FIFA over the matter, and Liffner remains hopeful about their chances of collecting.
"Besides our lawyer Lars Nilsson, we've spoken to a lot of knowledgeable people in this area and everyone we've talked to agrees with us."
"Then, of course, you can never be 100% sure of anything."
The player himself has opted to stay out of the argument, as reported in A Bola: "I had no idea what was going on. It has nothing to do with me. It is a situation between the clubs, so it does not influence me."
"I do not know what is written in the contract, and cannot be saying what should or should not happen."
The stakes will be even higher when Lindelöf is eventually sold by Benfica. If the Portuguese press are to be believed, the 22-year old's agent has already informed Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira that Chelsea are prepared to match his £25 million release clause. Under the terms of the original transfer agreement, Benfica could then owe Västerås as much as £5 million (53.8 million SEK).
Rest assured, Lindelöf will have a good career, whether he stays at Benfica, or moves on to Chelsea or whichever club needs a strong young centre-back to gallop up and down the pitch. And Benfica, a perennial Portuguese heavyweight, are doing good business by discovering rough diamonds, polishing them up, and selling them on for record fees.
The biggest potential losers here are Västerås, who need to hope that their original contract is indeed etched in stone, and that the legal mire which they are about to stumble through will not prove their death knell.