Barcelona's new president claims an unnamed rival pledged bigger wages and a larger fee in a bid to sign the Brazilian superstarNew Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says a mystery club tried to hijack a deal for Neymar at the last minute and likened the transfer to the Catalans' ultimately unsuccessful bid to sign Alfredo Di Stefano in 1953.
Back then, Barca and Madrid both agreed deals for the forward but the Catalans lost out to their biggest rivals after the government ruled the Argentine was to play alternately between the two Spanish giants. Barca declined and the player ended up making history as part of the greatest Blancos team in history.
Some 60 years later, Madrid were also keen on signing Neymar although they were not named directly as the club who attempted to gazump Barcelona as the last minute.
"Some haven't forgiven the player for choosing to come here when he could have earned more money elsewhere," Bartomeu said in his first press conference as Barca president on Friday.
"He was offered better wages and the fee was much higher than what we paid, but the player wanted to come to Barcelona and that's what worked in our favour."
Bartomeu introduced fellow board member Raul Sanllehi, Barca's football director in the management area, to explain the breakdown of the Brazilian's transfer, and the latter revealed that another club had offered an indemnity clause of €60 million, exactly €20m more than what Barca had agreed to pay.
"Neymar's father showed us the documents and another club was offering to pay €60m," Sanllehi said.
Asked if that club was Real Madrid, he replied: "You all know which are the richest clubs in Europe."
A document detailing Madrid's offer of €60m has also been leaked to the press in Spain and appears to confirm what Rosell had said all along, and what even Real supremo Florentino Perez has admitted: that los Blancos fought until the end in an attempt to sign Neymar from under Barca's noses.
"We lost Di Stefano," Bartomeu said. "But we weren't going to lose out on Neymar."
The Spanish high court's investigation into the Brazil international's move to Camp Nou is not the only reason Sandro Rosell stepped down as Barca president, according to Bartomeu, who says the club chiefs had only the Catalans' best interests at heart throughout.
"Neymar is here thanks to Rosell," he added. "Rosell has not just resigned over this issue, there was more than one reason.
"The vice-president Javier Faus and I also signed those contracts. But a complaint does not mean we're guilty of anything. Everything we have done, we have done for the good of the club.
"We have no doubt that everything is correct. No way will we resign. If the judge imputes us, that is difficult, but we won't resign."