Barcelona goes on the attack against old enemy Real

New president Bartomeu claims Madrid club plot is behind Neymar corruption case

Josep Maria Bartomeu at Monday's press conference.
Josep Maria Bartomeu at Monday's press conference.ALEJANDRO GARCÍA (EFE)

Barcelona beat Málaga 3-0 on Sunday night with both Sandro Rosell and Neymar absent from Camp Nou. The duo have been at the epicenter of a crisis that will not blow over even with the best intentions of all parties: Jordi Cases, the club member who lodged a lawsuit over the former president’s signing of the Brazil forward, has offered to withdraw his complaint if Barcelona guarantees him immunity.

But High Court Judge Pablo Ruz has said the inquiry into the alleged financial discrepancy will go ahead, despite Barcelona money-man Raúl Sanllehí explaining that the disputed cost of the transfer takes in the player’s salary and other agreements with Neymar’s former club Santos, his charitable foundation and Neymar & Neymar, a company the forward jointly owns with his father.

The terms of Neymar’s contract have been shrouded in mystery: Rosell claims the club paid precisely 57.1 million euros for the player, while the suit lodged by Cases states a figure of almost double that amount. Sanllehí, meanwhile, said the total transaction amounted to 86.2 million, but that the panoply of add-ons should not be applied to the pure transfer fee.

The Brazil player’s ankle injury allowed Barcelona to concentrate on on-field matters Sunday, but in the boardroom a salvo has been aimed in the default direction when clouds gather over the Catalan club: Real Madrid. Josep Maria Bartomeu, who assumed the presidency when Rosell stepped down last week, has not only pledged to see out the vacated mandate but to stand for re-election in 2016. Having previously alluded to Real Madrid’s controversial signing of Alfredo di Stéfano, Bartomeu has engaged in a different sort of relationship with the Bernabéu than the cordial one observed between Rosell and Florentino Pérez, even suggesting that Real has some sort of influence over the Madrid-based High Court.

If they can’t beat us on the field, they will try to do it in an office”

“It could be something to do with the fact that we have dominated since 2004 and if they can’t beat us on the field, they will try to do it in an office,” Bartomeu said it an interview with Catalan radio network RAC1. “It is difficult to digest that we have Messi and Neymar. I don’t rule out a lawsuit against whoever leaked the information and the media outlet that published it. We are not going to go after Jordi Cases because we have evidence that it was not him who leaked the information. We do not believe there is anybody behind him, but we do think there is someone in Madrid who got wind of the situation and decided to make a meal out of it to cause harm. In Madrid there is a prosecutor who we do not know. He is not one of us. I might have told him that he could have lodged the suit here in Barcelona.”

Bartomeu certainly talks a good game. But a reminder that he is a de facto president was delivered on Tuesday by a former aspirant to the big chair at Camp Nou, Agustí Benedito, who called on the incumbent to stand in elections at the end of the current season. “In 2010, I stood in elections and competed with three other club members who like me wished to occupy the presidency. Rosell defeated us all democratically and by a wide margin. Bartomeu at that time was not a candidate and in the voting it was not specified who the hypothetical replacement for Rosell would be. I can see a way to avoid this conflict and it is to call elections. It does not have to be immediately, but at the end of the season. He is in a strong position and it would be the best way to get out of this; it would be the best favor he could do Barcelona.”

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS