Jules Keita, from “Baba Neymar” to unwanted footballer

In the summer of 2020, the signing of Jules Keita at CSKA Sofia went unnoticed. Almost two years ago, the young winger burst the screen in the Dijon jersey with two goals and an assist during a match in Nice. The performance of the Guinean had been noticed, but not as much as his interview in front of the Canal + camera: “Neymar is my idol. Back home, people call me “Baba Neymar”. And I too can play harder than Neymar, inch’Allah…”

The sequel will not live up to the promises suggested during this evening. Neither in Dijon nor in Lens, where he had signed for four seasons in 2019. Ditto at CSKA Sofia, where Jules Keita was loaned for one season (2020-2021) by the Lensois club, with an option to buy.

There, failing to be a starter, Mr. Keita scored the first line on his list – the Bulgarian Cup. But since then, the 23-year-old player has not reappeared on a field, returned to Guinea. The fault of a dispute between Sofia and Lens. The consequence also, in part, of his own errors.

A purchase option clause at the origin of the dispute

It was the trophy won by CSKA Sofia and the wording of the contract initialed by the Bulgarian club and RC Lens regarding the loan of Mr. Keita which constituted the starting point of this affair. With its cup victory, the Bulgarian club won the right to play in the Europa League Conference, a competition created by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the first edition of which takes place in the 2021-2022 financial year. For RC Lens, this European qualification should have resulted in the activation of a purchase option included in Mr. Keita’s transfer contract. But the Bulgarian club relied on the exact terms of the document to claim otherwise.

In the contract, that The world was able to consult, it is stipulated that CSKA Sofia had the possibility of activating a purchase option and that this became mandatory if the Bulgarian club qualified “in the Europa League or in the Champions League for the 2021-2022 season”. The document written in English does not mention the Europa League Conference, announced by UEFA in September 2019.

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Seized in July 2021 by RC Lens, the tribunal of the International Football Federation (FIFA) settled the dispute, three months later, in favor of the Bulgarian club. Highlighting the fact that “neither the format nor the qualification conditions” at the Europa League Conference “were not known on the day the loan contract was signed”, Mand Sevan Karian, the lawyer for RC Lens, nevertheless recognizes an inaccuracy in the drafting of the contract.

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