Deportivo call Adrian up for pre-season, but Atletico Madrid claim ownership

Atletico Madrid target Adrian Lopez has been called up to Deportivo’s pre-season training camp, despite his and Atletico’s belief that he is no longer contracted to the club.

The Spanish Under-21 striker, who starred in his country’s European Under-21 Championship win, is pushing for a move to Atletico, the club he had agreed to join on a free this summer. Leaving a contract he views as having expired on June 30, the delay in pushing through the Bosman switch comes from Deportivo’s stance.

Depor believe they activated a clause in Lopez’ contract to renew his deal for another year on May 25, under Article 18 of a set of agreements between the League (LFE) and the players’ association (AFE). However, the player and his agent argue that the striker is a free agent because that agreement and its clauses expired on May 31.

Club President for the relegated side, Augusto Cesar Lendoiro insisted this week that Deportivo are legally correct in the matter, and that they discussed the clause in the contract and the fact they would activate it both with the player and his representatives. This has now been followed up with the club’s confirmation that they have called the player to pre-season training for July 19.

Coming through the youth ranks at Real Oviedo, Adrian spent a year in the Segunda Division before moving to Deportivo at the age of 18. Struggling to initially break into the senior side, the 5ft11 striker had loan spells at Alaves and Malaga before returning and featuring regularly with Depor in the past two seasons. His eight goals and three assists from 31 starts last term earned interest from a host of clubs including Valencia and Sevilla, with Atletico quickly securing an agreement in January to sign the 23-year-old, who they believed would be a free agent this summer.

The player’s performances in this summer’s European Under-21 Championship – that included finishing as top scorer and being voted the most valuable player – has now brought both his profile and this protracted disagreement to mainstream attention. The player has already publicly spoken of his dream being to move to the capital, and refused to rule out the possibility of legal action against Depor should that move collapse.

Lendoiro has instead appealed to Atletico CEO Gil Marin to ‘be sensible’ in the issue and negotiate a fair price for the coveted forward, with €5m the suggested figure. However, any transfer talk, including that of rumours of a switch to England or Germany, goes on hold, with a labour tribunal currently overseeing the case. A ruling is expected as early as the end of this week to determine the player’s ownership.

Interestingly, only last season did a very similar dispute occur involving Deportivo and another of their players. Defender Adrian Lopez Piscu, not to be confused with his namesake above, signed a deal in summer 2010 to join Wigan Athletic. Depor again claimed the player was still under contract at the Riazor, again through the Spanish side activating a renewal clause. However, the club ultimately lost the case, with the player eventually joining the Premier League outfit on a free transfer in October 2010.

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