Inter & Sporting CP in dispute over unpaid Joao Mario transfer clause

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
All this over a West Ham loanee?
All this over a West Ham loanee? / Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

Inter and Sporting CP are in a dispute over a clause in a deal that took Joao Mario to the San Siro back in 2016. 

The midfielder spent five years with the Nerazzurri before having his contract terminated recently. He never established himself in Italy, taking in loan spells at West Ham, Lokomotiv Moscow and latterly, Sporting, due to a lack of playing time. Since being released he has signed for Sporting's city rivals Benfica.

However, there is more to the story than meets the eye. In a statement published on Tuesday afternoon, Sporting alleged that Inter only terminated his contract early to avoid paying an additional €30m transfer fee. When he was sold it was agreed that should the Nerazzurri sell Joao Mario to another Portuguese club, they would have to pay the money. 

The claims have been strongly denied, with Inter issuing a statement of their own shortly after, which read: "FC Internazionale Milano is aware of the statement released to the media by Sporting Clube de Portugal. The comments are unacceptable, extremely serious and – most importantly – without basis in truth. The club will protect its image and reputation in the relevant forums."

Inter’s financial plight is well known. Soon after they secured the Serie A title last season, Scudetto winning manager Antonio Conte left the club due to off-field uncertainty. Since then, a string of worrying stories have emerged with players asked to take a significant paycut to ensure the club remains solvent in the future. 

It is expected that many big names could depart Inter this summer as well. Star wing-back Achraf Hakimi has already left, signing a big money deal with Paris Saint-Germain last week. Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, who have enjoyed an incredible strike partnership over the past few seasons, have also both been linked with a move away.