West Bromwich Albion yesterday launched an Appeal Court bid for more than £1 million compensation amid claims that a "negligent" surgeon ruined the career of one of the club's top players.
Michael Appleton, a £750,000 signing from Preston North End, suffered a serious injury to his knee in November 2001.
He was initially seen by the Albion physio who, realising the seriousness of the injury, referred him to Medhat Mohamed El-Safty, a knee specialist.
At the consultation, Mr El-Safty advised Mr Appleton that he had suffered a torn cruciate ligament and needed reconstruction surgery, an operation that was carried out in December 2001.
Mr Appleton never fully recovered from the operation and was forced to quit the game in 2003.
The club claims the surgeon's advice was "negligent", and that had the operation not been performed, Mr Appleton would have been match fit and available within four months.
But, despite admissions by Mr El-Safty's insurers that the injury should have been treated "conservatively", a judge at the High Court in December last year ruled that the surgeon owed no contractual duty to the club, and dismissed the claim.
Mr Appleton is himself making a compensation claim against the surgeon, but that case has yet to be concluded.
Reluctant to see such an expensive asset written off, West Brom pursued the matter at the Appeal Court in London where the club's counsel, Jeremy Stuart-Smith QC, yesterday urged Lord Justice Mummery, sitting with Lord Justice Rix and Mr Justice Peter Smith to overturn the December ruling.
The appeal is being opposed by Mr El-Safty's lawyers.
Mr Stuart-Smith told the judges that Mr El-Safty is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon specialising in sports injuries. Mr Appleton, a former Manchester United trainee, was just 27 when he was forced to quit the game.
He added: "The advice was negligent. It is common ground that Mr Appleton should have been treated conservatively and that, if he had been, Mr Appleton would have been match fit and available for first team matches within about four months.
"It is WBA's case that Mr El-Safty owed a duty of care to WBA not to cause it economic loss in the advice and treatment he gave to Mr Appleton.
"It is clear that it would be 'fair, just and reasonable' for a duty to arise."
However, Mr Stephen Miller QC, for the surgeon, said: "The judge's analysis was entirely correct.
"It would be wrong to find that a duty of care was owed by Mr El-Safty to the club."
The hearing continues.