FC Barcelona is still paying for the transfer of Brazil forward Neymar 266 days after his presentation at Camp Nou. The cost of Barcelona’s summer acquisition has now risen to almost 100 million euros, the same reported figure that made Gareth Bale the world’s most expensive player when he moved from Tottenham to Real Madrid.
Barcelona originally stated that the operation had cost 57.1 million euros, but Santos, the selling club, said it had only received 17.1 million for the player. It later transpired that Barcelona had paid a 40-million-euro fee to the company N&N, which is owned by Neymar’s parents. This was the amount that excited the interest of a FC Barcelona club member, Jordi Cases, who lodged a complaint with the courts. A judge subsequently opened an investigation based on Cases’ claims of financial wrongdoing, leading to the resignation of Sandro Rosell as club president.
Rosell’s replacement, Josep Maria Bartomeu, waived a confidentiality clause inserted into the contracts and revealed that the actual fee paid for Neymar was 86.2 million euros, taking into account a series of add-ons including a payment to N&N to scout Brazilian talent, a deal with Santos concerning its academy players, a fee to stage friendly matches between the two sides and a payment to Fundació Neymar Jnr to link the player’s image with Barcelona’s in Brazil.
On Monday, Barcelona made a payment of 13.5 million euros to the Spanish tax authorities, bringing the total cost of Neymar’s transfer to 99.7 million euros. The club insists that there were no irregularities in the operation to bring the Brazilian to Barcelona, and that it made the payment to avoid any misunderstandings with the authorities.
We have been taken aback by the speed of it all. It isn’t normal”
“I would like to reiterate that our club has acted legally in the acquisition of Neymar. We consulted the best lawyers and tax specialists. Our debt with the tax office is zero; Barça does not owe anything. Our actions during each step of the procedure have been transparent. Our response today was simply to avoid future fines. We have deposited 13.5 million euros with the tax authorities. I repeat; Barça signed Neymar legally,” said Bartomeu.
The club’s economic vice president, Javier Faus, said that as soon as the judge requested the contracts between Barcelona, N&N and Santos, the club carried out an internal investigation in which its auditors and accountants had reaffirmed that the operation was above board. An external consultation with two legal firms, including the one that represents the interests of Barcelona’s Argentina captain Lionel Messi, also reached the conclusion that there was nothing illegal in the signing of Neymar.
“We decided to pay [the amount to the tax agency] in the interests of the club, although we are convinced that the operation is legitimate,” said Faus on Monday. “We started the process last Monday but it will take a few days. We were very surprised, to put it mildly, because in the absence of an inspection by the tax authorities, the High Court last Wednesday admitted a lawsuit for fiscal fraud against FC Barcelona without consulting the tax agency and without any case being opened. We have consulted both offices and been told that this is the first time this has happened.”
Bartomeu also expressed the club’s surprise, in particular the fact that “everything is happening so quickly,” in a country not normally noted for the swiftness of its judicial system. “We have been taken aback by the speed of it all. It isn’t normal,” said Bartomeu.
Faus added that after the club’s investigations, lawyers recommended Barcelona make a “supplementary” payment to the tax agency against any future claims. Sources from the tax agency stated that the payment was not a “voluntary [tax] declaration” but a legal maneuver to reduce any eventual fine. By making the payment, the club could see a 62-percent reduction on a hypothetical fine of the 13.5 million plus a further 54, as Spanish law demands a payment of up to six times any amount proven to have been defrauded.