The decision of Sandro Rosell to fall on his sword following a court case that will explore the dubious details of Neymar’s move to Barcelona promises to be only the first bombshell in a story that looks set to run and run.
Barcelona have their backs against the wall, and to quote Winston Churchill who knew a bit about fighting with your back against the wall, “this is not the beginning of the end, but just the end of the beginning.”
Rosell insists Barcelona have done absolutely nothing wrong, and he asked the judge to call him to court so he could abandon the limits imposed by confidentiality clauses in the contracts, which stop him from explaining at length how Barcelona bought Neymar.
So how did we come to this?
Everything starts with doubts emanating from the Barcelona dressing room in regards to just how much Barcelona paid for Neymar and what exactly he was being paid.
The official line was that he cost €57.1 million and would receive a salary of €7 million a year after tax.
There was, however, the small matter of €40 million commission paid to a company called N and N, owned by Neymar’s father and the player himself, as reported by El Mundo Deportivo (h/t ESPN). That money divided among the five years of the contract lifted the player’s wages to €15 million a year, again after tax, and made him the club’s top earner. At the moment, Lionel Messi has to survive on €13 million a year after tax.
In fact, you can go back in time to find other reasons for what we are seeing now. In 2011, Real Madrid approached Neymar and even went as far as to give him a medical, little realising that he had already agreed to join Barcelona. After the medical he informed the White club of his new destination. To say the Castilian club was not amused would be an understatement.
Real, who never need much of an excuse to beat Barcelona with a stick, then made it clear that when they tried to sign Neymar at the last minute, they found out that the true figure would have been around €150 million, so the €57.1 million being quoted was simply not true.
People wanted to know what was going on, not least season ticket holder Jordi Cases, but when he asked the questions, the silence was deafening. Unable to get any answers, Snr Cases chose to take the legal route.
And so it was that in court the judge, Snr Pablo Ruz, adjudicated that indeed there was “sufficient evidence” to open an investigation into the payment of €40 million commission to the N and N company.
To that end, Ruz has asked FIFA to send all documentation pertaining to the deal, as well as the contract made between the club and N and N. The judge has also declared that an investigative commission in Brazil should receive all work contracts and transfer details.
There’s also the small matter of €7-9 million paid for the rights on three youth players at Santos and another €9 million for the playing of two friendlies against the Brazilian club.
Add to this a clause that means Barcelona will pay Neymar’s father to discover footballing talent in Brazil, which could prove problematic for him bearing in mind that he lives in Spain.
There’s also another clause that states that the player should be paid more in the event of him being played out of position, and on an altruistic note one that designates money for the poor from the Rio favelas.
The official line from Rosell is that with the judge deciding there is a case to answer, he felt the correct thing to do was stand down and fight the matter and not affect the credibility of the club.
He also talked about having received threats and how that had affected his family.
Never totally at home carrying the mantle of the presidency, I don’t believe Rosell ever took on the role because of a deep love, but rather from a sense of commitment to the club and also to the huge forces, political and financial, that have backed him.
The good news for Rosell is that, for the time being, the judge considers that it is neither “urgent nor necessary” to charge him and it is the contract that needs investigating. The bad news is that Snr Cases is looking to prosecute Rosell personally.
Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.