By Pilar Suarez
When Barcelona paraded Neymar in front of an adoring Camp Nou crowd in June 2013, the Spanish champions hoped he’d still be dominating the news agenda in Spain nine months on. He is. But not in the way the club had hoped.
Neymar’s move from Santos to Catalonia has developed into one of the most talked about transfers of all time. Although there was initial scepticism on some of the finer details of the move, it remained largely under the radar until Barca socio Jordi Cases issued a lawsuit over a lack of transparency, arguing the fee was more than Barca had claimed.
The fall-out was widespread. A Spanish judge decided to investigate Cases’ complaint, prompting Sandro Rosell to resign a day later despite standing by the claim neither he nor the club had acted inappropriately.
Rosell’s successor Josep Maria Bartomeu swiftly attempted to repair some of the damage, holding a press conference at which he went into some of the specifics of the deal and admitted there had been a €40 million payment made to the player’s parents’ company N&N as part of the €57.1m transfer fee.
Again, it caused an outcry. Having then made a ‘complementary’ tax payment of over €13m, Barca remain satisfied they have acted correctly throughout.
“We are calm, we are one of the few clubs who are up to date with tax payments," Bartomeu told RTVE. "I think in this way the club are exemplary.”
Barca believe they will be fully vindicated by the Spanish legal system. “Let us hope that before the courts everything will be found, as expected, to back up our story,” added Bartomeu.
"The contracts we signed with Neymar and with Santos were totally legal. The negotiations, the financial transactions, the contracts ... everything was done within the law.
"We would do exactly the same thing if given the chance to sign Neymar again. The goal was to sign a once-in-a-generation player like Neymar to play with the best in the world: Lionel Messi.”
The club’s position appears clear: don’t judge us now, judge us once the case has been through the courts. It seems a fair and logical approach, yet the whispers continue.
Goal understands Barca have grown increasingly tired by what they perceive to be a smear campaign instigated by the Madrid press and let’s face it, for right or wrong, mud sticks.
They do have one high-profile supporter, Spanish Secretary of State for Sport Miguel Cardenal, who this week made his position clear.
In an interview with El Pais, Cardenal launched an impassioned defence of Barcelona, stating: “FC Barcelona are not only a key asset of the Spanish brand, but also a reference for sports clubs, committed to home-grown talent as a defining feature.
“I would not be doing honour to the responsibility entrusted to me if I remained silent whilst a pillar of our sport and one which has brought us so much is harassed and accused. That pillar is a part of the heritage of Spanish sport.”
He added: “Hopefully, this media kangaroo court trial, which is so damaging to the image of one of our country’s most prestigious institutions, our sport and for Spain's most admired institutions of our country will come to an end.
“I ask that everyone, in line with our responsibilities, contribute to this for the benefit of Spanish sport, which owes so much to this club.”
Inevitably, and somewhat depressingly, his words prompted accusations of bias in the Madrid media. The fact remains that this is an ongoing investigation, one that needs to be allowed to evolve through the relevant channels.
Only then will we find out whether Barca are guilty of wrongdoing and, until that time comes, they should be offered the presumption of innocence.