The controversy surrounding the transfer of Brazilian superstar Neymar to Spanish Liga football club Barcelona is to be investigated by a Spanish court, it was announced today (Wednesday).
Neymar was in June unveiled as a €57.1m ($77.7m) signing from Brazilian Campeonato Serie A club Santos, but the precise terms of the deal were not revealed at the time with Barcelona citing a confidentiality agreement. However, Barcelona last week revealed that it paid €40m to a company owned by the parents of Neymar as part of the transfer deal to acquire the Brazilian forward.
The exact terms of the transfer have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months and Barcelona said that the payment of €40m to N&N Consultoria Esportiva and Empresarial Ltd was disclosed “from the first moment” as part of the €57.1m total transfer fee for Neymar. Sao Paulo-based N&N is reportedly owned by the 21-year-old’s parents and Spanish state prosecutors backed a legal challenge launched by club member Jordi Cases, who had demanded clarity over the terms of the transfer.
Prosecutors called for a hearing after having decided that there were sufficient grounds to believe there could be a case of “contractual simulation,” and the Reuters news agency today said that Judge Pablo Ruz had decided to open a hearing. The judge will seek more information from Neymar, Santos and Barcelona, while a decision will be made at a later date over whether club president Sandro Rosell will be called in person to provide evidence. On the basis of the evidence already received, an order from the judge on Wednesday stated: “It leads to the conclusion that the facts given by the complainant are plausible in being a crime of misappropriation as laid down in article 252 of the penal code.”
Today’s development comes after Monday’s press conference to unveil Barcelona’s plans for the redevelopment of its Nou Camp stadium was dominated by questions concerning the Neymar deal. Spanish newspaper El Mundo had earlier claimed that the transfer was actually worth €95m and Rosell on Monday said that he would be willing to give evidence in a bid to clear his name.
Having previously called on the judge to dismiss the case, Rosell told reporters: “I reaffirm that Neymar cost €57.1m, full stop. I am saying it for the umpteenth time and that’s enough now. The second is a request, with all my respect for the judge in this case. Ask him to initiate proceedings and call me to testify, precisely so I can tell the judge anything he would like to hear because there is nothing to hide. Everything is absolutely legal and absolutely clean. Any confidentiality clause that existed was always because it was asked for by the other side.”