By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The transfer of Neymar to Barcelona is to be investigated by a Spanish court over claims of misappropriation of funds and club president Sandro Rosell may be called to give evidence.
The Brazilian was paraded as a 57.1m euro signing by Barcelona from Santos in June last year but the details of the contract were not revealed due to a confidentiality agreement.
A hearing will now decide whether an wrongdoing took place after legal action was pursued by disgruntled fan Jordi Cases who had demanded a response from the club to his request for clarity over the high-profile transfer.
State prosecutors backed the legal challenge and called for a hearing, having decided that there was sufficient grounds to believe there could be a case of "contractual simulation" or distorting the final figures over what has to be paid.
They pointed to 40 million euros that was paid as part of the overall fee and went to a company owned by Neymar's father.
It caused the wrath of Rosell who has adamantly denied that any more than 57.1 million euros was paid.
In light of a claim by Spanish daily El Mundo on Monday that the figure was in fact 95 million euros, Rosell changed tack and from calling the judge to throw out the case he said he would be willing to give evidence and clear his name.
"Having anticipated you would ask about this, there are two points I would like to make," Rosell told a news conference on Monday. "The first is a reaffirmation that Neymar cost 57.1 million euros, full stop.
"I am saying it for the umpteenth time and that's enough now. The second is a request, with all my respect for the judge in this case. Ask him to initiate proceedings and call me to testify, precisely so I can tell the judge anything he would like to hear because there is nothing to hide.
"Everything is absolutely legal and absolutely clean. Any confidentiality clause that existed was always because it was asked for by the other side," he added this week.
Judge Pablo Ruz has decided to open a hearing and will be asking for more information from Neymar, Santos and Barcelona, while a decision will be made at a later date over whether Rosell will be called in person to provide evidence.
On the basis of the evidence already received, an order from the judge on Wednesday read: "It leads to the conclusion that the facts given by the complainant are plausible in being a crime of misappropriation as laid down in article 252 of the penal code." (Editing by Martyn Herman)
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- misappropriation of funds