Santander has appealed against a Madrid court ruling ordering the Spanish lender to pay Italian banker Andrea Orcel €51.4m in compensation for a withdrawn offer to hire him as CEO three years ago, two sources familiar with the process said today.

"The bank has filed the appeal and is basically contesting that the offer letter was a contract," one of the sources said without providing further detail.

The bank had already said it would appeal the ruling.

Orcel and Santander ended up in court after Spain's largest bank dropped plans to make the former UBS investment banker its CEO as a result of a disagreement over his pay.

Orcel had already left UBS to prepare for the new role.

In January a Madrid court awarded Orcel €51.4m over the withdrawn job offer.

Orcel's legal team, which had originally sought as much as €112ms from Santander for breach of contract, filed an amended lawsuit on May 17 last year, reducing the claim after he joined Italian lender UniCredit.

Judge Javier Sanchez Beltran had said in December that Santander's offer letter to Orcel in September 2018 was a binding contract.

Appeals against the ruling can delay a final outcome for another one or two years if legal proceedings reach Spain's Supreme Court, several court sources have said.

Both parties can reach an out-of-court settlement at any time during the process.