Current Spanish champions FC Barcelona have been rocked by a scandal involving their striker Neymar. Allegations of bribery and corruption in La Liga are not uncommon, but dramatic revelations about the signing of their star striker have forced club chairman Sandro Rosell to tender his resignation.
The 21-year old wunderkind Neymar signed from Brazilian club Santos in summer last year for a stated transfer fee of €57 million ($78 million). At the time, club president Rosell publicly boasted about the relatively low transfer price, comparing it to arch-rivals Real Madrid’s signing of Welsh winger Gareth Bale for €90 million (€123 million).
However, allegations have abounded of further payments made in secret to both Santos and a private company representing the striker. On Monday, Spanish newspaper El Mundo revealed that the total amount paid for Neymar was closer to €94 million. A Spanish judge has now ordered an investigation into the legality of the deal, forcing Rosell to tender his resignation as club chairman.
According to reports, the real deal for Neymar involved a number of secret contracts that obscured the true value of the transfer. Santos are alleged to be receiving up to €44 million from the deal, including bonuses. The other €51 million is to be paid to a business entity known as Neymar & Neymar, a business entity controlled by the player and his father. Rosell strenuously denies these allegations.
If true, the deal would make Neymar the most expensive player in world football, elevating him above the €94 million paid by Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo. His personal contract is also one of the most lucrative in world sports, with a starting annual salary of €6 million that may rise as high as €15 million depending on performance. Since joining FC Barcelona, Neymar has driven their success in La Liga and the Champions League with six goals in 16 games, although it remains to be seen if this scandal will affect his performance on the pitch.
For Rosell, this is his second resignation from Barcelona, having quit as Vice President in 2005 after a falling out with then-President Joan Laporta. He was widely credited with bringing another Brazilian star, Ronaldinho, to the Catalan club and during his term as President the team secured two La Liga titles and one Champions League.
Rosell’s vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu will immediately take control of FC Barcelona while Rosell seeks to clear his name. In a statement published on the Barcelona website, Rosell reiterated that the Neymar transfer was entirely legitimate and blamed the “despair and envy” of Barcelona’s rivals for bringing this case about.
Judge Pablo Ruz is overseeing the case and has already issued requests for all documentation relating to the transfer, including the contract between Barcelona and Neymar&Neymar. No individuals have yet been called for questioning although Rosell has promised his full co-operation in the investigation.
FC Barcelona are no doubt rocked by the Neymar scandal but have yet to issue a statement on the matter, while FIFA and Santos have also held silence. All parties are waiting for further instructions from Judge Ruz, although no doubt the pro-Madrid elements of the Spanish football press will especially keen to see how this case unfolds.