Brazilian superstar Neymar began his trial in Spain on Monday over alleged irregularities in his sale to Barcelona nearly ten years ago, less than a month before the World Cup.
The 30-year-old waved to the media as he and his parents, who are also in the dock, arrived at the Provincial Court of Barcelona wearing sunglasses and a dark suit.
Neymar is being sought after by Spanish prosecutors for a two-year prison sentence as well as a 10-million-euro ($9.7-million) punishment.
A protracted legal battle over his 2013 move from the Brazilian team Santos to Barcelona culminated in the high-profile trial.
Then, in 2017, he transferred for a record-breaking 222 million euros ($214 million) to join Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain.
One of nine defendants on trial for corruption-related accusations is Neymar, who arrived in Barcelona just hours after scoring the game-winning goal against Marseille in a Ligue 1 match on Sunday night. His parents and their N&N company, which handles his business affairs, are also defendants.
Following a 2015 complaint from DIS, a Brazilian firm that at the time of the player’s transfer to Santos owned 40% of the player’s sporting rights, investigators started looking into the trade.
Barcelona stated that the transfer would have cost 57.1 million euros, while prosecutors estimate it to have cost at least 83 million.
The club claimed to have paid Santos 17.1 million euros and N&N 40 million euros, of which 6.8 million euros went to DIS.
However, DIS asserts that Neymar, Barcelona, and the Brazilian club conspired to conceal the deal’s full cost.
Two previous Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, as well as the former head of Santos are also defendants.
Compromise to fraud
The defense team for Neymar asked for permission for the player and his parents to skip the trial opening hearing because they needed some rest after attending the Paris Saint-Germain match on Sunday night.
Neymar and his mother exited the building shortly before noon after the court gave its approval. In the end, his father chose to remain with the other defendants.
On October 21 or October 28, Neymar will give a testimony, but it is unknown if he would have to be present in person. The trial scheduled conclusion is October 31.
Tuesday’s videoconference testimony from Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid, will focus on how a covert pre-contract agreement between Barcelona and Neymar in 2011 affected the market.
“Neymar Junior cheated DIS of its legal financial interests,” claimed DIS attorney Paulo Nasser on Thursday. “Neymar Junior, with the complicity of his parents and FC Barcelona and its directors at the time, and Santos FC at a later stage, and Santos FC at a later stage.”
A 35 million euro recovery would benefit DIS.
The 40 million euros was a “legitimate signing bonus, which is common in the football transfer market,” according to Neymar’s attorneys, who maintain that their client is innocent.
They have claimed that because the transfer involved Brazilian citizens in Brazil, Spanish authorities lack the authority to hear the case.
FOR THE WORLD CUP
Five years ago, Neymar abruptly left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain, setting off a series of legal problems. Barcelona withheld the contract extension bonus and sued the player for breach of contract; Neymar countersued.
In 2021, all parties ultimately came to a “amicable” out-of-court settlement.
Since joining PSG, the footballer is enjoying one of his greatest seasons.
In 11 Ligue 1 games, he has seven assists and nine league goals, including his goal against Marseille.
However, he seems to have trouble getting along with France’s star Kylian Mbappe, who reportedly wants PSG to sell the Brazilian.
Neymar is also anticipated to play a significant part for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar as the South American powerhouses attempt to win the championship for the sixth time overall and for the first time since 2002.
On November 24, he will captain the Selecao in their Group G debut against Serbia.