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Spanish court orders Barça’s Neymar to stand trial for corruption

Barcelona forward Neymar and his parents will stand trial over alleged corruption, making the Brazilian the latest football superstar to have to take the stand, a Spanish court ordered on Thursday.

Spanish court orders Barça's Neymar to stand trial for corruption
Neymar is not the only Barça star to land in trouble with the law. Photo: AFP

The National Court also ordered Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his predecessor Sandro Rosell to be sent to trial over alleged fraud and corruption over Neymar's transfer from Santos in 2013.

They will stand trial for “business corruption and fraud”, the court said in a statement.

An initial court statement had said Neymar and his parents were also accused of fraud, but a detailed court document seen later by AFP revealed the trio have only been charged with “business corruption.”

The two clubs, Barcelona and Brazil's Santos, were also ordered to stand trial.

Neymar's arrival from Brazil's Santos has been a huge success for the Spanish champions on the pitch but a judicial nightmare off it.    

The 25-year-old striker is being investigated in Brazil and Spain over his headline move to La Liga.

The case initiated with a complaint from Brazilian investment company DIS, which owned 40 percent of Neymar's sporting rights at the time of his transfer.  

DIS received just 6.8 million euros – 40 percent of the €17 million fee paid to Santos – with the company claiming it was cheated out of its real share because part of the transfer fee was concealed by Barcelona, Santos and the Neymar family.

But the court suspects Santos was actually paid €25 million, which would mean DIS was cheated out of €3.5 million.

Barcelona originally published the transfer figure as €57.1 million ($62.3 million), with €40 million of that given to the player's family and the rest to Santos.

Jail term sought

DIS has called for five-year sentences for Neymar and his parents, who acted as the player's representatives, eight years for Rosell and Bartomeu plus a mammoth 195 million euro fine for Barça.

Spanish prosecutors have recommended that Neymar be handed a two-year jail sentence and fined €10 million.

Sentences of two years or less are habitually suspended for first time offenders in Spain.

However, DIS also recommended that Neymar be banned from playing football during any judicial sentence.  

In July 2016 a judge ruled that irregularities in the transfer were detected, but said it was an issue for a civil court, not a criminal court to settle.

But prosecutors successfully argued the player and his father were aware of potentially fraudulent dealings between Barcelona and Santos to the detriment of DIS to fully overturn that decision.

The decision to order Neymar to stand trial is another blow to the image of the Spanish giants and the player himself.  

Barcelona hoped to bring an end to the murky affair when the club agreed to pay a 5.5-million-euro fine in a deal with prosecutors in June to settle a separate case and ensure the club avoided trial on tax-evasion charges over the transfer.

Messi sentenced

Neymar is far from the only Barça star to find himself embroiled in problems with the Spanish authorities.

Five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his father were given 21-month suspended jail sentences in July 2016 for tax fraud relating to the player's image rights.  

Barça's Argentine defender Javier Mascherano also agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud earlier this year.    

The off-field upheaval hasn't affected Barça, Neymar's signing being an undoubted sporting success as he has formed one of the most fearsome strike partnerships of all-time with Messi and Luis Suarez.

Barça have won back-to-back Spanish league and Cup doubles with the trio and won the Champions League in 2015.  

Neymar signed a bumper new deal with the club to extend his contract until 2021 in July 2016 despite admitting he held talks with Paris Saint-Germain amidst interest from a host of top European clubs in luring him away.

By Daniel Silva / AFP

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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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