FIFA is investigating Manchester City over claims by French club Rennes it illegally poached a teenager.
The 17-year-old defender Jeremy Helan was signed in February after an "illegal" approach, according to Rennes, although City insisted Tuesday that it has acted within the rules and didn't induce Helan to breach his contract.
The case intensifies the spotlight on the pursuit of young talent by English clubs a week after FIFA banned Chelsea from signing players until Jan. 2011 for inducing Gael Kakuta to break his contract with Lens and move to Stamford Bridge.
World soccer's governing body could also be receiving a complaint about Manchester United from another French side, Le Havre, which claims 16-year-old Paul Pogba was "stolen" when under contract. United denies the allegations.
Rennes maintained it has a strong case against City, which is one of the world's richest clubs since being bought a year ago by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour.
"Manchester City must now realize the consequences of their attitude in the Helan case as it is even more illegal than Kakuta," Rennes technical director Pierre Dreossi told The Independent newspaper. "In the week after the FIFA declaration on Chelsea, I would hope that it will be the same thing for Manchester City. Kakuta signed up for just a possibility of a full contract.
"For Helan there was definitely one there, under the terms of the pre-contract agreement, because he had played for his country. Manchester United said it was not possible to negotiate with us but for City now this is dangerous, though we are not expecting a decision from FIFA for perhaps several years."
City said in a statement that the dispute was between Rennes and Helan, who was originally targeted by rival Manchester United.
"Manchester City is aware of the ongoing contractual dispute in the French Labor Courts between Jeremy Helan and Stade Rennais," the Premier League club said. "The dispute between the player and the club predates any interest from Manchester City.
"Manchester City obviously cannot comment on the case until the French judicial process has run its course, however we are comfortable that we have acted within the rules throughout the process and in no way induced any breach of contract by Jeremy Helan."
Source: AP News