BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A Spanish judge agreed on Wednesday to hear a lawsuit brought by a Barcelona club member against president Sandro Rosell regarding the cost of the transfer for Brazil striker Neymar.
After a preliminary examination of the contracts involved in Neymar's signing, judge Pablo Ruz wrote in a ruling there is "sufficient elements for the admission of the lawsuit" brought by club member Jordi Cases.
On Monday, Rosell insisted the total cost of 57 million euros (then $74 million) to bring Neymar from Brazilian club Santos announced at the player's presentation last June was correct. Cases alleges the amount paid by the Spanish champions was higher and that Rosell misappropriated funds by hiding the real cost to the club behind false contracts, a criminal offense punishable by up to six years of prison.
Cases told El Pais newspaper on Monday "the lawsuit is against Rosell, not against Barca." "We don't think that somebody kept the money," Cases said. "We only want to know how they account for the expenditures, because it isn't clear."
Barcelona is owned by its more than 160,000 members, who elect a president and governing board. Barcelona made 482.6 million euros ($654 million) in revenue last season, second only to fierce rival Real Madrid, according to accountancy firm Deloitte.
Rosell and other members of his board have repeatedly said the contracts involved in Neymar's transfer included confidentiality clauses that don't allow them to reveal the exact amount of the 57 million euros received by Santos, and the three companies, DIS, TEISA and N&N, who owned shares of Neymar's rights.
To proceed with the suit, Ruz asked that FIFA and the Brazilian football federation present documentation related to the Neymar transfer; Neymar da Silva Santos Junior provide the contract he signed with the company N&N, run by his father Neymar Silva Santos, that ceded it his "future economic rights"; and for Barcelona to hand over contracts for the payment of 7.9 million euros for the rights to three Santos "youth players" and the contracts for the payment of 9 million euros to play two friendlies with Santos.
Rosell said Monday he would be willing to answer any questions Ruz might have regarding the deal. "We respect all the contracts we sign," Rosell said. "That's why I would be delighted for the judge to summon me for questioning so I can explain all the questions related to the contract."
Rosell, at least for now, will not have to appear before the judge in Madrid because Ruz said there was no "urgency or need" for him to be summoned. Ruz is also presiding over a high-profile corruption case that has rocked Spain's ruling party regarding an alleged slush fund run by former Popular Party treasurer Luis Barcenas.
The 21-year-old Neymar, who led Santos on its greatest run since Pele stopped playing in the 1970s, has scored 11 goals since joining Barcelona. He is sidelined with a right ankle injury for two-to-three weeks.
This is the second major ongoing legal dispute involving Barcelona players. A court near Barcelona questioned Lionel Messi and his father Jorge in September after a Spanish state prosecutor filed a complaint that the Argentina star owed 4 million euros in back taxes.