Barcelona have admitted a company owned by Neymar's parents received more than 70 per cent of the near 50 million pounds transfer fee that brought the player to the Nou Camp. The Spanish champions bowed to pressure to divulge details of who made money out of the Brazil star's move from Santos last summer after Spanish prosecutors asked a Madrid judge to investigate alleged irregularities in the deal.
The case was brought by Barca member Jordi Cases, an opponent of club president Sandro Rosell, who he also accused of failing to disclose the true cost of signing Neymar. Cases and other observers claim the eventual outlay could rise from pounds 48.6?million to more than pounds 63?million, while it has been alleged pounds 34?million of the fee paid for Neymar went to the player and his family as a "signing bonus". Barca have now acknowledged that figure was the amount paid to a company called N&N Consultoria Esportiva and Empresarial Ltd, which is owned by the 21-year-old's parents.
The revelation could result in further legal action being taken against the club by a separate player investment fund, DIS Esporte, which acquired 40 per cent of Neymar's transfer rights while he was at Santos. The Sao Paulo-based firm received pounds 5.8?million from the Barca deal - 40 per cent of what remained after N&N was paid pounds 34?million - and is seeking to obtain documents about the move from the Catalan club amid rumours there are two different versions, one of them described as "simulated". The allegations were enough for prosecutors to ask Fifa and Santos for any documentation they held on the transfer.
Barca, who had said upon signing Neymar that the precise percentages paid to various stakeholders was "confidential", reacted angrily to the lawsuit brought by Cases, demanding it be "thrown out of court" and categorically denying they had broken any laws. Revealing they had submitted an affidavit to the court, they added in a statement: "The club provides a detailed argument as to why the lawsuit should be dismissed. "Firstly because of the real motivation of the plaintiff, which is to use the legal system to attempt to discredit the club and its president. "Secondly, the affidavit explains that the payment of euros 40?million [pounds 34?million] to N&N Consultoria Esportiva and Empresarial Ltd as part of the payment for the player is included in the euros 57.1?million [pounds 48.6?million] total, which the club has indicated from the first moment.
"Thirdly, the club refutes the arguments of the Finance Ministry of January 10, 2014, because, on the one hand, no contract simulation or mutation existed between the agreements made between the player and the N&N company in November 2011 and that signed on June 3, 2014, in order to definitely sign the player for the club. "Finally, the club's affidavit asks for the action to be thrown out, as it is not pertinent, necessary or corresponding to the appropriate procedural occasion." The club's statement followed another week in which they expressed their "indignation" over the investigation into Neymar's transfer, accusing Madrid prosecutors of showing no interest in their own position.
The club also strongly hinted that arch rivals Real Madrid had attempted to sign Neymar on similar terms. "Our rivals were prepared to do the same operation, with much more money, but due to the ability and skill of its negotiating team, FC Barcelona were able to get in first," they said. "The complexity of the contract, which the prosecutor calls 'contract simulation', has never been in itself illegal and we believe that the prosecutor's belief that it is, is a mistake. "Given the seriousness of this situation and although we believe in the good working of justice, we intend to act decisively to defend the honour of FCB and its president."
The Neymar saga is the latest to expose the pitfalls of players being owned by third parties, a practice banned in England but almost actively encouraged in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. Uefa wants it outlawed worldwide. Brazilian football journalist Mauricio Savarese said: "It's a very big problem for Brazilian football now and many clubs are worried about the power these 'owners' have over players." Neymar's signing has proved an inspired one for Barca, with the forward scoring nine goals and setting up 10 more in La Liga and the Champions League this season. Messi is himself embroiled in legal difficulties in Spain, with his father appearing in court in September to give evidence to a judge after prosecutors accused the pair of evading euros 4.2million (pounds 3.5million) in taxes, something they deny.