BARCELONA: With the World Cup barely a month away, Brazilian superstar Neymar went on trial in Spain Monday over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona nearly a decade ago. Wearing sunglasses and a dark suit, the 30-year-old waved to the press as he arrived at the Provincial Court of Barcelona with his parents who are also in the dock. He will likely take the stand on Tuesday. The player had been set to testify on either October 21 or 28 but the judge agreed to bring forward his hearing to avoid a clash with his football commitments.
‘Complicity to defraud’
Investigators began probing the transfer after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 percent of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos. Barcelona said the transfer cost 57.1 million euros, but prosecutors believe it was at least 83 million euros. The club said it paid 40 million euros to N&N and 17.1 million to Santos, of which 6.8 million was given to DIS. But DIS alleges that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of the deal.
Among the other defendants are two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and ex-Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is set to take the stand on Tuesday by videoconference to give his opinion of how a 2011 secret pre-contract deal between Barca and Neymar influenced the market. “Neymar Junior, with the complicity of his parents and FC Barcelona and its directors at the time, and Santos FC at a later stage, defrauded DIS of its legitimate financial interests,” said DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser on Thursday. DIS is seeking to recover 35 million euros.
Neymar’s lawyers insist their client is innocent, saying the 40 million euros was a “legal signing bonus which is normal in the football transfer market”. They have said Spanish authorities lack jurisdiction to hear the case since the transfer involved Brazilian nationals in Brazil. The trial is due to end on October 31.
Neymar’s abrupt departure for PSG five years ago sparked a string of legal disputes, with Barcelona withholding its contract extension bonus and suing the player for breach of contract, as Neymar countersued. Both sides eventually reached an ‘amicable’ out-of-court settlement in 2021. The footballer is having one of his best seasons since he joined PSG. His goal against Marseille on Sunday was his ninth league goal of the season, and he has seven assists in 11 Ligue 1 matches.
But his relations with France international superstar Kylian Mbappe appear to be strained, with the 23-year-old reportedly demanding PSG sell the Brazilian. Neymar’s PSG will face Ajaccio on Friday in Ligue 1 before hosting Israeli side Maccabi Haifa in a Champions League match on October 25. Neymar is also expected to play a key role for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar, as the South American giants seek to win the trophy for the first time since 2002, and the sixth in total. He will lead the Selecao into their Group G opener against Serbia on November 24.