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Spanish judge drops Neymar fraud case

A Spanish judge has dropped a fraud and corruption case against Brazilian superstar Neymar and his father in relation to the player’s 2013 transfer to Barcelona.

Spanish judge drops Neymar fraud case
The prolific Brazil striker has played brilliantly for the Catalan club. Photo: AFP

However, the judge said that irregularities in the high-profile transfer were detected, but it was an issue for a civil court, not a criminal court to settle.

The case was brought by the Brazilian investment fund DIS, former owners of the rights of the player, now 24 and who moved to the Camp Nou from Santos in his homeland.

DIS, which held 40 percent of Neymar’s sporting rights when he played at Santos, had claimed it was cheated out of its real share of the transfer due to parallel contracts that Barcelona and Santos allegedly used to hide the true cost.

High court judge Jose de la Mata ruled that while the case “could have sporting, ethical and disciplinary repercussions”, it “cannot be pursued in the criminal courts”, the court said in a statement.

Neymar and his father, who acts as his agent, and Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his predecessor Sandro Rosell all denied any wrongdoing when they appeared in court in February.

Public prosecutors plan to appeal the judge’s decision to shelve the case, a judicial source said.

The ruling comes lass than a month after Barcelona accepted to pay a €5.5-million ($6.2 million) fine over the contested transfer in a deal with prosecutors that allowed the club to avoid trial on tax evasion charges, in a separate case related to the transfer.

The agreement freed up Bartomeu and Rosell from possible criminal proceedings that could have seen them jailed.

Barcelona had originally published the fee in the transfer as €57.1 million, with €40 million of that given to the player’s family.

But Spanish authorities believe the true transfer figure was at least €83 million.

Santos — the Brazilian club of a young Pele and where Neymar started his career — received €17.1 million, €6.8 million of which went to DIS.

But Spanish judicial authorities believe another €26 million from the parallel contracts were shared between Neymar, his family and Santos, with the DIS and the taxman missing out on their cuts.

Barcelona welcomed the judge’s decision.

“It’s good news. This is a chapter that we close,” the head of the club’s legal department, Ramon Gomez Ponti, told a news conference.

Neymar, widely regarded as one of the finest talents in world football, last week signed a five-year contract extension with Barcelona which includes a buy-out clause of up to €250 million. 

The player was already under contract until 2018 with Barcelona and the deal will keep him at the Catalan side until June 30, 2021. 

The prolific Brazil striker has played brilliantly for the Catalan club as part of a much feared attacking trident alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

He helped Barcelona win the Spanish league last season for the second year in a row, narrowly beating their fierce rivals Real Madrid.

The scandal surrounding Neymar’s transfer prompted Rosell to resign as Barcelona president in January 2014.

The club and its players have been plagued by a series of legal woes. 

A Barcelona court on Wednesday sentenced Messi and his father to 21 months in jail for tax fraud although they are not expected to serve the term as is common in Spain for sentences of less than two years for non-violent crimes.

Messi’s Barcelona and Argentina teammate Javier Mascherano was sentenced in December to a one-year suspended sentence for tax fraud after he was found guilty of failing to pay €1.5 million in taxes for 2011 and 2012.

FOOTBALL

Barça seek Super Cup tonic to Neymar hangover

Barcelona host rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday badly in need of a morale-boosting win following the world record sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barça seek Super Cup tonic to Neymar hangover
Barcelona forwards Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Photo: AFP

Despite banking 222 million euros for the Brazilian, Barça's scattergun approach to finding a replacement has so far been unsuccessful with bids for Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele of Borussia Dortmund so far rebuffed.

New Barça coach Ernesto Valverde must therefore try to down the European and Spanish champions with a weaker squad than the one which missed out to Real for the La Liga title last season.

However, Barça did manage to beat Madrid without the then-suspended Neymar the last time the sides met in competitive action back in April as Lionel Messi won an incredible encounter 3-2 with the last kick of the game.

The Catalans also edged last month's Miami friendly between the two in Neymar's last game for Barça 3-2.

Valverde's men completed a perfect pre-season on the field with a fourth straight win by sweeping aside Chapecoense 5-0 on Monday in a match to raise funds for the stricken Brazilian club who lost 19 players and 24 club officials in a plane crash last year.

“We've had a good pre-season and we are coming into the game in good condition,” said Valverde.

“But on Sunday the real thing starts, with a competitive game and a title at stake against our biggest rivals.”

Gerard Deulofeu was handed Neymar's role alongside Messi and Luis Suarez up front against Chapecoense on his return to the club after spells at Everton and AC Milan.

And the Spanish international took his chance with a goal and two assists in just 45 minutes on the field.

“It is always a pleasure to play here and even more so with these players,” said Deulofeu.

Valverde is likely to stick with Deulofeu, but the former Athletic Bilbao coach could also strengthen Barça's midfield by sacrificing a forward to add Sergi Roberto to the normal midfield three of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta.

Despite failing to win any of their pre-season games, Madrid started the new campaign as they ended last season with another trophy as Zinedine Zidane's men proved too strong for Manchester United to win the UEFA Super Cup 2-1 on Tuesday.

Casemiro and Isco were on target as Madrid's midfield dazzled in Skopje, Macedonia, but Zidane will be forced into at least one change from the side that started in midweek as Luka Modric is suspended.

Should Zidane wish to maintain the 4-4-2 system he has utilised to huge success in 2017, Mateo Kovacic is the favourite to replace his Croatian teammate in midfield.

However, Modric's absence increases Cristiano Ronaldo's chances of returning to the Madrid starting XI after making just a brief cameo appearance as a substitute against his former club in Macedonia.

Ronaldo only returned to training with his teammates last weekend on their return from a tour of the USA having been given an extended break following Portugal's participation in the Confederations Cup and a court appearance in Madrid over allegations of tax evasion.

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