Sunderland said on Thursday they intended to terminate the contract of Emmanuel Eboue before he had even kicked a ball in anger for the club after Fifa ordered the defender to serve a one-year ban over fees owed to a former agent.
However, the Ivory Coast international can automatically end the ban if he pays the money to his ex-agent Sebastien Boisseau, the world governing body said.
Fifa, announcing the suspension earlier on Thursday, said the ban covers “any football-related activity that will last for one year or until he pays the total outstanding amount owed to his former agent”.
In response, Premier League strugglers Sunderland said they had given the 32-year-old former Arsenal player, who joined the north-east side in a short-term deal earlier this month, two weeks’ notice.
Eboue has the right of appeal but it now looks as if his Sunderland career could end without him making a single first-team appearance.
“Sunderland AFC has been advised by the Football Association that Emmanuel Eboue has been placed under an immediate suspension from football and all football-related activity for a period of one year, by FIFA,” said a club statement.
“The suspension relates to a monetary dispute between the player and a former agent, which precedes his time at Sunderland AFC and was not something that the club was made aware of by the player.
“Eboue signed a contract with Sunderland AFC until the end of the current season and the club has therefore given notice of its intention to terminate the contract. The player has two weeks in which to appeal this decision.”
Eboue’s ban will be a further setback to Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce’s hopes of keeping the club in the lucrative Premier League, with the Black Cats now without Adam Johnson after the club sacked the former England midfielder following his admission of sexual activity with an under-age girl that has since seen the player jailed.
Sunderland, two points shy of safety, continue their quest for Premier League survival against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
A Fifa players’ status committee ruled in July 2013 in favour of agent Sebastien Boisseau in a contractual dispute with Eboue. In September 2014, the Fifa disciplinary committee fined the Ivory Coast star 30 000 Swiss francs ($30 000) for failing to comply with the decision.
He was then given a 120-day “grace period” to settle the debt before Boisseau would be entitled to request that a one-year ban be imposed.
Eboue appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost. After a new deadline for payment was set and passed, Boisseau “requested that the one-year ban be imposed on Mr Eboue in accordance with the decision of the Fifa disciplinary committee”, said a Fifa statement.