With the World Cup barely a month away, Brazilian superstar Neymar went on trial in Spain yesterday over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona nearly a decade ago.
The Paris Saint-Germain player, 30, arrived at the Provincial Court of Barcelona yesterday for the trial, which is the culmination of a years-long legal saga over his 2013 transfer from the Brazilian club Santos.
Neymar is one of nine defendants on trial on corruption-related charges, among them his parents and their N&N Company, which manages his affairs. All three are facing charges of business corruption.
If convicted, Neymar could face two years in jail and a 10 million euro (£8.6 million) fine.
Investigators began probing the 2013 transfer after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 per cent of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos.
Barcelona said the transfer cost 57.1 million euros but prosecutors believe it was at least 83 million euros (£71.8million).
The club said it paid 40 million euros (£34.6 million) to N&N and 17.1 million euros (£14.8 million) to Santos, of which 6.8 million euros (£5.8 million) was given to DIS.
But DIS alleges that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of the deal.
Among the other defendants were two former Barca presidents, SandroRosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and ex-Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho.
Neymar, now with Paris Saint-Germain, was in court on the first day.
He will testify on either October 21 or October 28, but it is not known if he will have to be physically present. The trial is due to end on October 31.
‘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,’ said DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser on Thursday.
DIS is seeking to recover 35 million euros (£30.2 million).
Neymar’s lawyers insist their client was innocent, saying the 40 million euros (£34.6 million) was a ‘legal signing bonus which is normal in the football transfer market’.
The footballer is having one of his best seasons since he joined PSG following a world record 222 million euro (£192.1 million) transfer in 2017.
He scored the only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over bitter rivals Marseille at the Parc des Princes in Paris. Neymar has nine goals and seven assists in 11 matches in Ligue 1. –Mailonline