Gabriel Heinze found himself between a rock and a hard place on August 21 2007.
The Argentina full-back’s bid to force through a move from Manchester United to arch-rivals Liverpool hit a brick wall when a Premier League panel ruled that a letter signed by Red Devils chief executive David Gill which confirmed a fee for which he could leave Old Trafford did not constitute an obligation to sell him.
Heinze, who was 29 at the time and had two years of his United contract still to run, incurred the wrath of both manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the club’s fans, who viewed his efforts to ease his path to Anfield as treachery.
The three-man panel, which heard evidence from then Crystal Palace chief executive Phil Alexander that he had been approached by one of the player’s representatives with a proposal for him to join the Eagles before switching to Liverpool, sided with United after a two-day hearing.
A statement said: “The hearing concluded that nature and intention of the disputed June 13 2007 letter, especially when taken in context of verbal discussions and Manchester United’s transfer policy, was unambiguous in that it envisages only an international transfer.
“Furthermore the hearing finds the letter constitutes an ‘agreement to agree’, and did not create an obligation or binding agreement for the club to transfer the player to any particular club.”
With his bridges burned, Heinze signed a four-year contract at Real Madrid the following day, leaving furious Reds boss Rafael Benitez flabbergasted and Ferguson vowing to get to the bottom of the saga.
The Scot said: “There was never any chance of Liverpool winning that case, so Rafa clearly did not read the Premier League rules. It is just churlish.
“We are looking at Liverpool’s whole role in this. We are not letting them off with it.”