Neymar case puts spotlight on Barca president
Pressure on Barcelona president Sandro Rosell grew on Wednesday after a Spanish judge agreed to hear a case made against him by one of the club's own members for misappropriation of funds in the deal which brought Brazilian star Neymar to the club last year.
Rosell has routinely insisted that the 21-year-old cost the club 57.1 million euros ($77 million), but refused to divulge how much money each of the parties to the deal received on confidentiality grounds.
That led Jordi Cases to launch the case against Rosell last month for not informing the club's members as 40 million euros of the fee was supposedly paid to a business owned by Neymar and his father called N&N.
The club were subsequently asked to submit the contracts that sealed the player's arrival in Catalonia, as well as Barca's financial accounts for the past three years.
And the judge, Pablo Ruz, has now decided that the documentation handed over reveals "sufficient elements" for an investigation to go ahead.
On top of the 57.1 million euros attributed by the club for the signing, Barca also paid Santos 7.9 million euros for the first-option to buy three youth team players and nine million euros for playing two friendly matches, the documentation for which Ruz has also now requested.
The capture of Neymar was a significant political coup for Rosell. A former Nike executive in Brazil, the 49-year-old played a key role in bringing two-time World Player of the Year Ronaldinho to the club in 2003 in his role on the board of previous president Joan Laporta.
Neymar was, though, his first marquee signing since winning elections to become the president in 2010.
However, his desperation to land Neymar last summer, as La Liga rivals Real Madrid considered making a move for the player, may have significantly increased the outlay made by the club.
According to the court resolution, the documentation handed over by Barcelona in December shows that an agreement was signed between the club and N&N in November 2011 that signified Barca's intention to sign the player in 2014, when his previous contract with Santos was due to expire.
For bringing the move forward by a year, Barcelona were deemed to have broken that first contract and therefore had to pay a penalty clause of 40 million euros to the company.
As recently as Monday, Rosell reiterated his stance that the deal cost 57.1 million and that he would welcome the chance to be called by the judge to give evidence in the case to clarify matters.
However, Ruz insisted there was no "urgency or necessity" to hear Rosell's testimony until the case was more advanced.
The case is merely the latest in a line of bad publicity for Rosell's board.
Last month, in an uncharacteristic outburst, Lionel Messi blasted vice-president Javier Faus for "not knowing anything about football" after he said there was no reason to hand the Argentine a new and improved contract.
Faus and Rosell have since backtracked on that stance, saying Messi deserves the best "economic treatment" for continuing to be, in their opinion, the best player in the world.
On the field the idea to mould two of the game's most marketable stars in Messi and Neymar hasn't been a resounding success either as injuries to both players has meant they have only started together in 11 of Barca's 30 games so far this season.
Meanwhile, concern has been expressed from fans that the board's proposal to remodel the Camp Nou for a massive 600 million euros, which was announced earlier this week, could see a significant increase in ticket prices.