Neymar’s attendance anticipated at Barcelona corruption trial for testifying

Brazilian football star Neymar is expected to testify in a Spanish court over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona almost a decade ago, just a month before the start of the World Cup. Originally scheduled to testify on October 21 or 28, the judge agreed to bring forward the hearing to avoid a clash with his football commitments. The 30-year-old, wearing a dark suit and sunglasses, arrived at the Provincial Court of Barcelona with his parents, who are also defendants in the case.

Neymar spent two hours at the court on Monday, after which he was excused by the judge for the rest of the day’s hearing to rest after playing on Sunday night. The footballer scored the only goal of the Ligue 1 match against Marseille. The high-profile trial is the result of a years-long legal saga over Neymar’s 2013 transfer from the Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona, before joining Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222 million transfer in 2017.

Spanish prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison term for Neymar and the payment of a €10 million ($9.7 million) fine. He is one of nine defendants on trial on corruption-related charges, including his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs. Investigators began probing the transfer after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 percent of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos.

Barcelona claimed that the transfer cost €57.1 million, but prosecutors believe it was at least €83 million. DIS alleges that Neymar, Barcelona, and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of the deal. Among the other defendants are two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and ex-Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is also set to take the stand on Tuesday by videoconference to give his opinion of how a 2011 secret pre-contract deal between Barca and Neymar influenced the market.

According to DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser, “Neymar Junior, with the complicity of his parents and FC Barcelona and its directors at the time, and Santos FC at a later stage, defrauded DIS of its legitimate financial interests.” DIS is seeking to recover €35 million. Neymar’s lawyers argue that the €40 million was a “legal signing bonus which is normal in the football transfer market” and that Spanish authorities lack jurisdiction to hear the case since the transfer involved Brazilian nationals in Brazil.

Neymar’s abrupt departure for PSG five years ago sparked a string of legal disputes, with Barcelona withholding its contract extension bonus and suing the player for breach of contract, while Neymar countersued. Both sides eventually reached an “amicable” out-of-court settlement in 2021. Neymar is expected to play a key role for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar as the South American giants seek to win the trophy for the first time since 2002 and the sixth in total. He will lead the Selecao into their Group G opener against Serbia on November 24.

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