Neymar is on trial in Barcelona ahead of the World Cup

Neymar of Paris Saint-Germain during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between SL Benfica and Paris Saint Germain at Luz Stadium in Lisbon, Portugal on 05 October 2022. Miguel A. Lopes, EPA-EFE

BARCELONA, Spain — A month before the start of the World Cup in Qatar, Brazilian superstar Neymar is on trial in Spain for alleged irregularities during his transfer to Barcelona nearly a decade ago.

The trial opens in Barcelona on Monday after a years-long legal saga over his 2013 transfer from Brazilian club Santos, with the 30-year-old star in the dock along with his parents, whose company manages his affairs.

All three face commercial bribery charges.

Investigators began investigating the deal after a complaint was filed in 2015 by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40% of the player’s sports rights when he was at Santos.

Barcelona said the transfer cost €57.1m but prosecutors believe it cost at least €83m.

The club said they paid 40 million euros to N&N, a company owned by the Neymar family, and 17.1 million to Santos, of which 6.8 million went to DIS.

But DIS allege that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to hide the true cost of the deal.

A total of nine defendants are on trial for corruption, including two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and former Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho.

Rosell and FC Barcelona are charged with fraud and corruption, while Filho and Santos are charged with fraud.

If found guilty, the Paris Saint-Germain striker faces two years in prison and a fine of 10 million euros ($9.7 million).

The trial is due to run until October 31, just three weeks before the start of the World Cup on November 20, with Neymar due to lead Brazil in their Group G opener against Serbia four days later.

– ‘Complicity in fraud’ –

Neymar is expected in court when the trial begins, although his attendance has not been officially confirmed, and will testify either on October 21 or October 28.

On day two, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will take the stage to explain how a secret 2011 pre-contract deal between Barca and Neymar influenced the market.

Alongside the prosecution’s case, DIS – a sports investment firm owned by Brazilian supermarket chain Sonda – filed its own complaint, alleging collusion to defraud it of its actual part of the deal.

“Neymar Junior, with the complicity of his parents and of FC Barcelona and its leaders at the time, and of Santos FC thereafter, defrauded DIS of its legitimate financial interests,” his lawyer Paulo Nasser said on Thursday.

He also claims financial damage from the pre-contract agreement between Neymar and Barca which prevented other clubs from making offers for the player, affecting the value of the transfer fee.

She is looking to recover 35 million euros.

– A complicated story –

The 2013 transfer also caught the attention of Spanish authorities who opened a tax evasion investigation in Barcelona. In 2016, they reached an agreement with the club agreeing to pay a €5.5m fine to avoid trial.

Neymar’s lawyers insist on their client’s innocence, saying the €40m was a ‘legal signing bonus, which is normal in the football transfer market’.

But Neymar’s complicated history with Barca didn’t end there, with the star abruptly leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.

This sparked a series of legal disputes, with Barcelona withholding his contract extension bonus and suing the player for breach of contract, as Neymar counterattacked.

The two parties eventually reached an out-of-court settlement in 2021.

Neymar is enjoying one of his best seasons for PSG since joining the club in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

He has scored eight goals and provided seven assists in 10 Ligue 1 matches.

But his relationship with French international superstar Kylian Mbappe appears to be strained, with the 23-year-old apparently demanding that PSG sell the Brazilian.

Neymar is also set to play a key role for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar as the South American giants seek to lift the trophy for the first time since 2002.

© Agence France-Presse


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