The Mirror’s star football writer, Harry Harris, "on holiday" while editor Piers Morgan keeps him to a 15-month contract, has sold serialisation rights to his updated paperback biography of Pele to his would-be new employer, the Daily Express.
Stories from his football internet column are appearing in the Express and Harris told Press Gazette: "I have drawn a line under The Mirror. That’s my past."
Harris has taken holiday leave, delayed paternity leave and 473 days off in lieu for the 18 years he has worked at the paper without a day off.
Mirror lawyers, however, are looking at any stories which go up on the website and are used by the Express which have not been offered to The Mirror first. "We couldn’t have him scooping his own paper," said Morgan. "That would be a serious breach of his contractual obligation to us.
"More pertinently, I am quite surprised that Harry has appeared on his website this morning since he has not returned to work. We will be asking Mr Harris exactly when he intends returning under his contractual obligations. Frankly, Harry’s games at the moment leave a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth. We have done nothing wrong and what he is trying to do is to ridicule us into releasing him from his contract. I am damned if I will do that. He will be serving his notice come what may."
Harris writes his internet column independently from his work with the newspaper for Sportal.com.
He wants to extricate himself from his contract so that he can take up a lucrative – worth more than £300,000 – new post at the Express.
But he has been unable to get an interview with Morgan to discuss his position, even though he has written to offer to buy himself out of his contract with The Mirror.
On the Pele book, Morgan said: "If the Express believes that running a rehashed version of cuttings about a man who last played professional football about 50 years ago will increase their sales, I’m very happy for them. We perhaps are more Beckham than Pele these days."
By Jean Morgan