Football: Neymar may face trial over Barcelona transfer

Neymar
Neymar

MADRID • The prospect of Barcelona superstar Neymar standing trial moved closer on Monday as a Madrid judge accepted an appeal by prosecutors for corruption charges to be brought against the Brazilian, a court filing said.

The decision overturns a ruling in July that said irregularities detected in the Brazilian's 2013 transfer to Barcelona were an issue for a civil court, not a criminal one.

Neymar's parents, as well as Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his predecessor Sandro Rosell - who resigned over the scandal in 2014 - also face corruption charges.

Both the defence and prosecution have 10 days to present their arguments before a final decision over whether the case will go to trial is made, a statement from Spain's National Court said.

Should he be found guilty, Neymar, 24, faces a prison sentence of between six months and two years and a heavy fine.

Barcelona said on Monday they would appeal against the judge's decision, with which they expressed their "surprise and total disagreement... particularly given that the same magistrate decided to dismiss the case for all the defendants last July".

  • $61.4m

    Amount paid to N&N, a company owned by the family of Barcelona forward Neymar (right), in 2011 to secure his transfer from Santos.

According to the judge's findings, a pre-contract agreement between Neymar and Barcelona - by which the player received €40 million (S$61.4 million) in 2011 to ward off competing clubs for his signature - "altered the free market of football transfers".

Neymar joined the Catalan giants in 2013.

Bartomeu and Rosell also stand accused of fraud over the transfer.

The case began with a complaint from Brazilian investment company DIS, which owned 40 per cent of Neymar's sporting rights at the time of his transfer from Santos.

Barca initially announced the cost of the move at €57.1 million, €17.1 million of which was paid to Santos with the remaining €40 million paid to N&N, a company owned by Neymar's family.

However, Spanish authorities believe the real cost escalated to €83.3 million.

DIS received €6.8 million, 40 per cent of the fee paid to Santos.

The company believes it was cheated of its real share because part of the transfer fee was concealed by Barcelona and Neymar.

Moreover, DIS also argued that the pre-contract agreement between Neymar and Barca impeded other clubs from making offers for the player, affecting the value of the transfer fee.

The decision is another blow to the image of the Spanish champions and the player himself, who is also facing tax evasion charges in Brazil.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Neymar may face trial over Barcelona transfer'. Print Edition | Subscribe