Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has resigned with immediate effect after a Spanish judge accepted a lawsuit filed by a Barca member over what could have been Rosell's greatest legacy — the signing of 21-year-old Brazilian star Neymar.
Questions about Neymar's transfer from Santos have persisted in Brazil and Spain since the deal was announced for a suspiciously low €57 million in May of last year. This was reportedly lower than the bid Santos received from Real Madrid, who went on to spend more than €90 million on Gareth Bale a few months later. So how did allegations that have yet to be proven in court prompt Rosell, who became Barca president in 2010, to evacuate his position with two years left on his term?
Goal.com compiled an explainer on the case, identifying the benign start to this lawsuit.
The complaint was lodged against Rosell by Barcelona fan and socio [club member] Jordi Cases last month, alleging misappropriation of funds and a lack of transparency over the €40m allegedly paid to the company owned by Neymar and his father.
Cases, a lifelong fan of the Catalan club, has criticised some of the side's other initiatives in recent times, such as the shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways. Cases says he and other socios have a right to know how the money was spent, but claims he would not have pursued the case had he received a civil answer from Barcelona in the first place. "If they had told me there was no [specific] concept for that money, but that otherwise he wouldn't have joined, that would have been enough," he told reporters recently. "I would still think they were lying, but I just wanted a response."
And when no response was forthcoming, Cases decided to take his complaint to court.
The funds were allegedly misappropriate through a series of smaller, supposedly unrelated contracts designed to minimize the amount of money going to third-party investors and sweeten the deal for Santos, Neymar and his father, bringing the total cost of the transfer to a much higher and more believable level. From Forbes:
According to El Mundo, [Spanish national court judge Pablo] Ruz is reviewing a series of contracts signed between 2011 and 2013. The first of those stipulates FC Barcelona will pay €40 million to Neymar & Neymar (N&N), an entity controlled by Neymar and his father, for the athlete’s services. Then, in 2013, well after Neymar had already been officially presented as an FC Barcelona player, the club signed four contracts with the star’s father, none of which were contingent on those services actually being delivered. Neymar da Silva, Sr. would receive €4 million for bringing in Brazilian sponsors, €2 million to find “new stars” in his son’s former club, Brazil’s FC Santos, €2.5 million to use for charitable causes in Sao Paulo, and €2.6 million as a “commission” on a further imaging contract between Barҫa and Neymar Jr.
Furthermore, the Catalan club agreed to pay FC Santos a €17 million transfer fee, a €10 million signing bonus, €9 million for two friendly matches, and €7.9 million for a special preference on three of the team’s players. All in all, FC Barcelona paid €95 million to bring Neymar on board.
Rosell faces up to eight years in jail for misappropriating these funds and Barcelona could be fine and punished by FIFA and UEFA if and when they open investigation into the transfer of their own.
This is not the first time Rosell has been accused of shady dealings with Brazilian football, though. A marketing company owned by Rosell was hired to organize a friendly between Brazil and Portugal in 2008, with Brazilian prosecutors alleging that the deal was established through fraudulent and corrupt means.
At a press conference announcing his resignation, Rosell maintained his innocence and declared that everyone is just jealous of the deal he was able to strike. From the PA:
"For some time my family and myself have suffered threats and attacks in silence. These threats and attacks have made me wonder if being president means having to jeopardise my family.
"In recent days an unfair and reckless accusation of misappropriation has resulted in a lawsuit against me in the Audiencia Nacional. From the beginning I have said that the signing of Neymar Jr has been correct and his signing has caused despair and envy in some of our adversaries."
"The right of the club members to be informed needs to be compatible with the defence of the club and confidentiality of certain matters and facts. This confidentiality is essential in the world of football because otherwise the club could be damaged.
"The board of directors is a team. And this team leads a project that has brought the club great success. I don't want unfair attacks to negatively affect their management or the image of the club. This is why I think my time here has come to an end."
Barca vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu will fill Rosell's position until 2016. Neymar, meanwhile doesn't seem to be too bothered by the turmoil his transfer is causing. Just before Rosell made his announcement, the player who has already scored 11 goals for his new club this season posted a picture of himself smiling on Instagram, along with a message of thanks to Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus for another day of joy
Thank you, Jesus for another day of victory
Thank you, Jesus for giving wisdom and changing my story
Thank you, Jesus
Thank you, Jesus for helping me overcome evil
Thank you, Jesus for my right living
Thank you, Jesus for all the good that the Lord does and giving me health and peace