Sunderland have announced that they have sacked defender Papy Djilobodji for breach of contract after he failed a fitness test on his return from an unauthorised absence.
Djilobodji was granted time away from Sunderland in July to aid his attempts to secure a move elsewhere, with the player keen to leave the Stadium of Light and the club hoping to offload his lucrative contract from their wage bill.
But having failed to attract sufficient interest, Sunderland claim Djilobodji remained absent without their permission for the whole of August, before “comprehensively” failing a standard fitness test when he belatedly returned in the first week of September.
A statement on the club’s official website read: “Sunderland AFC has given notice under its contract with Papy Djilobodji. Djilobodji, who was under contract to SAFC until June 2020, indicated in June 2018 that he wished to leave the club.
“In order to facilitate that desire, the club entered into a written agreement with the player allowing him to spend the month of July on voluntary unpaid leave.
“When that period came to an end, the player was expected either to leave for a new club – having reached a deal satisfactory to himself and SAFC - or to return in shape to play professional football.
“Instead, he returned to Sunderland over a month later, in the first week of September, ignoring written requests for his return. On his return, he was subjected to the same fitness test that his fellow professionals had undertaken on their return. He comprehensively failed that test.
“As a result, Sunderland AFC can confirm that it has accepted Papy Djilobodji’s repudiatory breaches of contract and notice of the same has been provided to the player.”
Djilobodji joined Sunderland from Chelsea in the summer of 2016 for around £8 million, having played a grand total of one minute in the League Cup and spent time on loan at Werder Bremen during his 12 months on the books at Stamford Bridge.
He becomes the second player to be sacked by Sunderland for breach of contract in recent years; Adam Johnson was dismissed in February 2016 after pleading guilty to one count of sexual activity with a child and one charge of grooming.
Sunderland are also taking legal advice regarding club-record signing Didier Ndong, who has failed to return to the Stadium of Light since the club’s relegation to League One at the end of last season.
“I’m certain we’re allowed to fine them,” Sunderland chairman Stewart Donald told talkSPORT on Tuesday. “But the question is whether they’ve done enough in breach of their contracts [for us] to terminate their contracts and pursue them for wilfully devaluing themselves.
“Didier Ndong has shown no interest in returning to the football club whatsoever. We don’t even know where he is. Papy has returned but in his last conversation [before coming back] he said: ‘You’ll never see me in Sunderland again.’
“Just because they can’t move now we don’t think they’ve behaved well enough for us to say, ‘All right, we’ll pay you’, never mind play them, because neither of them are in condition to play.”