Barcelona’s Neymar crisis deepened last night when president Sandro Rosell resigned just three weeks before the club face Manchester City in the Champions League. After an emergency board meeting at the Nou Camp, the former Nike executive – who took over from Joan Laporta in 2010 – confirmed he was leaving his post with immediate effect.
Rosell said: “My time at Barcelona has finished. Everything we have said about the Neymar transfer is correct but I do not want unjust attacks to affect the club. The signing [of Neymar] has provoked the envy of our rivals.”
Rosell will be replaced by his vice-president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who will now have to see the club through the complaint filed, by one of their own supporters Jordi Casas, against the Barcelona board for the much-heralded transfer of Neymar from Santos to Barcelona last summer.
Rosell had always maintained that Barcelona paid €57m (£46.9m) for Neymar – €17.1m to his club Santos and €40m to a company owned by the player’s father called N&N.
But some supporters questioned why the club had paid such a large sum to the player’s father and when Casas asked Rosell to explain the €40m payment he was not given an answer.
He filed a complaint that Judge Pablo Ruz accepted on Wednesday, meaning there will now be a full investigation with further documentation requested and the club’s president possibly called to give evidence. That would now be Bartomeu instead of Rosell.
The original payment of €40m to N&N remains at the heart of the complaint, with Rosell accused of misappropriation of funds, an offence that can carry a prison sentence.
It was agreed in a contract signed with N&N in 2011 that Barcelona would purchase Neymar in 2014 when he was due to become a free agent.
Because the player arrived in 2013, when he was still not a free agent and part-owned by Santos, the €40m was paid as a penalty for breaking the agreement with N&N to sign the player this year. But if this penalty payment is not legally watertight it will remain a payment that cannot be accounted for and could be seen as a way of bolstering Neymar’s wages. The player receives €5m (£4.12m) net a year but if the €40m paid to N&N were counted as wages that figure would increase to €13m (£10.7m) a year.
That would be of great interest to tax authorities keen to take their 52 per cent of Neymar’s wages.
The case is made all the more complicated by third-party ownership. It is understood that as many as 12 contracts were exchanged as Neymar moved from Santos to Barça last June. Rosell has argued that only payments of €17.1m to Santos and €40m to N&N correspond to the Neymar transfer.
But Barcelona are also understood to have signed a €2.6m commission to Neymar’s father for the negotiation of his deal; a contract worth €2m for another Neymar-owned company to look for new talent in Brazil; a contract worth €4m to find new commercial partners for Barcelona in Brazil; and a payment of €2.5m to a Neymar foundation set up to help poor neighbourhoods in Sao Paulo.
Barcelona argue these contracts have nothing to do with buying Neymar but as it is money going from the club to a company owned by the player, again it could be interpreted as disguised wages.
Judge Ruz also wants to see the two agreements with Santos: one to play two friendlies with Barcelona and another for preferential rights over three players that total €16.9m.