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Bocanegra transfer could be bogged down in legal wrangling

It's either one of the worst kept Whitecaps transfer secrets ever, or a rumour that has grown more arms and legs than a mutated octopus.

The 'Carlos Bocanegra to Vancouver' transfer saga has gone on for months now, with Scottish media reporting this week that it is basically a done deal.

As soon as the plight of crisis club Rangers became unmanageable, clubs and fans all over looked at what Gers players could be pillaged if they went to the wall.

That time has now come, and it may be very vulturesque, but considering the way the Old Firm have plundered the talents of smaller Scottish League clubs over the years, it is also very fitting and enjoyable.

Carlos Bocanegra is genuinely one of the few prize catches, but landing him may not be quite that easy.
At 33 years old, you're looking at a player who still has a lot to give and has invaluable experience at the top levels of the game.

He's played in the English Premiership, in France and in Scotland. He's played in European club competitions and has over 100 international caps for the US.

He is the Captain of his country and the Vice-Captain of his club.

Bocanegra could easily go and play again in the Premiership, or elsewhere in Europe. He is sure to be in demand.

At some point in a player's life though, he's going to either want to go home, or, as in the case of someone like Barry Robson, start a new life for his family in the last few year's of his playing career.

Bocanegra left the US to go and play in England in January 2004. He was 24 and has been away from his home for over eight years now. The time may be right for him to return to North America and play out his career in Major League Soccer.

Under <a href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/2012-mls-roster-rules" target="_blank">MLS Roster Rules</a>, Section 2A "Allocation Ranking":

<i>"The allocation ranking is the mechanism used to determine which MLS club has first priority to acquire a U.S. National Team player who signs with MLS after playing abroad, or a former MLS player who returns to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee. The allocation rankings may also be used in the event two or more clubs file a request for the same player on the same day when the discovery period opens in December. The allocations will be ranked in reverse order of finish for the 2011 season, taking playoff performance into account.

Once the club uses its allocation ranking to acquire a player, it drops to the bottom of the list. A ranking can be traded, provided that part of the compensation received in return is the other club’s ranking. At all times, each club is assigned one ranking. The rankings reset at the end of each MLS League season."</i>

Unless you've been living in a glass bubble for the last few months, you'll have seen all the rumours around of Bocanegra making the move to Vancouver to partner his friend Jay DeMerit in the centre of the Whitecaps defence.

The Caps are currently number one in the "Allocation Ranking" and would have first choice on Bocanegra. They could sign him, trade him or simply pass.

There were some concerns that his previous club of four years, Chicago Fire, may still hold his MLS rights, but this was earlier confirmed not to be the case after he was transferred to Fulham for a cash fee.

All good news for Vancouver Whitecaps, but it's still not all that simple.

Here's one of the many new twists in the Rangers saga that has come out today.

Two Rangers players, Sone Aluko and Rhys McCabe, are <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/18560798" target="_blank">reported</a> to have said no to a new contract with the "newco" and say they are walking away.

They have lodged official objections from their lawyers and are said to be actively seeking new clubs.

They are the first of possibly many players to do so, although some, like former Scottish international Lee McCulloch, have pledged their future to the new Gers.

Bocanegra has given no indication either way, although he <a href=" http://www.dailymail...it-Rangers.html" target="_blank">previously said</a> he would quit the club if he was asked to take another pay cut.

Players moving on is where it all starts to get a bit cloudy and complicated.

Under European Law, there are two ways to read how footballers are affected.

One is that their contract is automatically transferred to the "newco" as long as the same terms are offered. The other is that as it's a different business, they can walk away.

The new owners of Rangers say the former, the players' union (PFA Scotland) says otherwise and that the players can walk away as free agents.

Nobody knows for 100% certainty.

It falls under the edict of the 'Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006', or TUPE as it is now commonly part of the Scottish language with all this. TUPE is the UK's implementation of the EU's 'Business Transfers Directive'.

Rangers players will now likely be a test case, with the club saying that they just can't walk away and are likely to challenge it in a court of law.

If it was only to be these two players, they may not bother. McCabe is not a big star and Aluko's contract was thought to be expiring this summer with an option anyway.

If others now start to quickly follow, as is expected, and especially some of the more valuable assets like Bocanegra, then they won't just sit back and allow that without some kicking and screaming.

This will all take weeks, if not months. Like so many things with this Rangers farce, it leaves the game in an absolute mess.

So what happens to the player?

Players' registrations lie with the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and they have made no comments on the matter at all.

It is now up the SFA to decide if the contracts can be released or transferred. If there is then a dispute then FIFA, and undoubtedly the courts, would get involved.

So if the Caps want the US international how can they get him?

Well the easiest option would be that they just simply pay Rangers a transfer fee.

But why would you do that if you could get the player for nothing? Never mind giving money to a club that has cheated and cost many other clubs and businesses a lot of money.

All the Rangers players that want to leave may be granted a temporary transfer.

What that means is that if Bocanegra says he wants to go, then the SFA will say ok and the Caps can sign him.

It would then be up to Rangers to go after the player and the Caps for compensation.

If nothing can be worked out, then FIFA will get involved, and the unlikeliest of all outcomes would be that he would have to move back to Scotland.

There has been a similar situation in the past involving a Scottish club, known as the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webster_ruling" target="_blank">Webster Ruling</a>.

In summary, Andy Webster was a Hearts player that used updated FIFA transfer regulations in 2006 to invoke freedom of movement rights under European Union laws to leave the Scottish club and join Wigan Athletic in the English premiership, despite still being under contract.

Hearts fought the move and initially refused to release his papers and FIFA intervened.

Hearts valued the player at £5 million. FIFA awarded them £625,000 as a transfer fee, to be paid by Webster and not Wigan. The Court of Arbitration for Sport then got involved after Hearts appealed, and reduced the fee down to £150,000!

As you can see, it was a complete shambles then and still is.

Getting Carlos Bocanegra to Vancouver would not be without it's headaches and possible legal wrangling, but to add a player of that quality, to already one of the best defences in MLS, it is more than worth administrative hassle involved.

Will it happen? Will it happen soon? Watch this space...