Pete Jenson: The Nou Camp may one day have a mausoleum but Barcelona hope Neymar deal does not return to haunt them
A Different League: The Brazilian's fee was originally quoted as €57m but a court has heard the true cost to the Catalan giants was €100m
Thursday 23 January 2014
It's difficult to know whether to take news that Barcelona want to accommodate their supporters after death by offering 30,000 urns to be kept in the redesigned Nou Camp as well-meaning sentimentality or just more shrewd business.
For a sizeable fee, fans can spend all of eternity (well not quite eternity, €6,000 gets you 90 years) in the Barcelona mausoleum. Club insiders say they hope it will put an end to the practice of trying to obey a loved one's dying wish by disposing of their ashes on the sly during a guided tour of the stadium.
The remodelled Nou Camp, with its in-built mausoleum, will also carry a sponsor's name. If the last big club in Europe to give in to shirt sponsorship is willing to accept a brand name on its stadium then anyone can. Barça have also sold the space on the inside of their famous shirts. Every euro counts when it's €100m (£82m) not €57m (£48m) you are paying for Neymar.
No doubt when the case that Judge Pablo Ruz admitted to court is finally heard, Barcelona will argue they did nothing wrong when they paid Neymar and N&N, the company owned by the player and his father, €40m (£32.7m). Third-party ownership is after all legal in South America and if N&N part-owned the player's registration, were they not in a position to negotiate a fee, be it as a bonus for signing as a free agent in 2014, or as a penalty for signing before?
Barcelona also paid Neymar's father a €2.6m (£2.1m) commission for negotiating a contract that guarantees a minimum of €54m (£44m) in wages over five years but there is no legislation against agents charging commissions or being related to players.
Will anyone be able to prove that a deal worth €2m (£1.65m) over the next five years for another Neymar-owned company to look for new talent in Brazil is not perfectly genuine? Or that another worth €4m (£3.3m) for them to find new commercial partners for Barcelona in Brazil is also not valid?
Can it be proved that a payment of €7.9m (£6.5m) for preferential rights on three Santos players or the €9m (£7.4m) for two friendlies were not separate from the transfer?
And can it be shown that another contract with another Neymar organisation to help the poorest neighbourhoods in Sao Paulo worth €2.5m (£2.05m) has not been set up to do exactly that? Even if it was not the case before, you can imagine an army of social workers armed with Barça shirts and plans for new football pitches in the favelas, heading for Sao Paulo as soon as judge Ruz decided to hear the case.
The Barcelona president, Sandro Rosell, has been put in an embarrassing position but it may well be impossible to prove that all monies destined for the Neymars were really just disguised wages and ought to be taxed at 52 per cent.
Or that the other monies going to Santos might not also be part of the transfer fee, thus increasing the percentage owed to other third parties who also had a stake in the player?
Barcelona say they have done nothing more than use "business engineering" in a deal that may have involved as many as 12 different contracts. And as long as transfers exist in a fairly unregulated state where it seems anything goes, there is plenty of scope for that.
The only thing that goes on rising as steadily as transfer values is ticket prices. Some Manchester City fans say it will cost them less to fly to Barcelona next month than it will to get into the game.
Perhaps it is fitting then that it was a fan who provoked the Neymar transfer investigation. Pharmacist and Barça supporter Jordi Cases wanted to know what the €40m payment to N&N had been for. Only when the club ignored his requests for transparency did he take his complaint to the courts, unaware of where the paper trail would lead.
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