Neymar to appear in court over Barcelona transfer

FC Barcelona's Neymar. (Manu Fernandez/AP)

MADRID — Neymar will appear before a judge to testify in an investigation into alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona, Spain’s national court said Wednesday.

Neymar’s parents, former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and current president Josep Bartomeu also will have to appear before a judge, according to court documents.

The Brazil striker is set to testify on Feb. 2, while Rosell and Bartomeu are expected to be in court on Feb. 1.

The national court last year rejected the request by Neymar and other defendants to throw out a probe into the irregularities. The court is looking into a complaint made by a Brazilian investment group which claims it was financially harmed when Barcelona and Neymar allegedly withheld the real amount of the player’s transfer fee from Brazilian club Santos in 2013, in part to avoid paying the full amount of taxes.

Santos' former presidents, Luis Alvaro de Oliveira and Odilio Rodriguez Filho, also have been asked to appear in court, as well as club representatives of both Barcelona and Santos.

The complaint, made in June by investment group DIS, names Neymar, his father and Barcelona as defendants, along with Rosell and Bartomeu.

The court analyzed the complaint and said there were indications of illegal acts by some of the involved parties in an attempt to disguise the total amount that was paid to the Brazilian club.

The Brazilian investment group was entitled to 40 per cent of Neymar's transfer from Santos, but it claims it received smaller compensation than it should have because part of the transfer fee was concealed.

Santos officially received a payment of 17.1 million euros ($18.5 million) for Neymar's transfer, but investigations in Spain later showed that Barcelona spent nearly 83.3 million euros ($90 million) to acquire the Brazilian.

A separate court in Madrid is hearing a similar lawsuit against Rosell because of Neymar's transfer fee. Rosell resigned from Barcelona because of the allegations.

FIFA recently said it was also analyzing a complaint related to the transfer. Santos claimed that Neymar and his father broke the terms of the player's contract by starting negotiations with Barcelona without the Brazilian club's consent.

The 23-year-old Neymar has also encountered problems with Brazil's tax office, which last year froze assets related to the player valued at about 189 million Brazilian reals ($47 million) because of allegations of tax evasion.

Neymar's case isn't the only legal problem affecting Barcelona in Spain.

Lionel Messi and his father will stand trial on three counts of tax fraud and could be sentenced to nearly two years in prison if found guilty. A date for the trial is expected to be announced in the next few days.

Last year, Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano admitted to a court that he failed to pay nearly 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in taxes owed for 2011 and 2012.