Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu and his predecessor Sandro Rosell face tax evasion charges in Spain following accusations that the club defrauded the Spanish government to the tune of €2.8m in the deal to take Neymar to the Camp Nou two years ago.
The charge is related to a €5m payment that Barca agreed to pay to the company N&N for the player. The charges are based on the grounds that the correct amounts of tax were not paid in relation to these payments.
Barcelona used to have a pristine reputation. They played fantastic attacking football, had the best academy in the world and spurned sponsorship by having the UNICEF logo on their shirts.
But somewhere in the last five years Barca under Rosell and Bartomeu changed. UNICEF was replaced by money fro Qatar and FIFA found the club guilty of improperly signing under-age players to La Masia.
On Tuesday another stain in the reputation of Barcelona occurred with the tax evasion charges. And in true victim form, Bartomeu immediately blamed everyone else but himself for the latest scandal to tarnish this proud club:
“Barca did nothing wrong,” he said. “We signed Neymar advised by great offices like Cuatrecasas. Everything was done well. It does not bother us that they accuse us, but that the judge charges us. That has angered us a lot. We would continue doing everything exactly the same. We did not commit any crimes.”
“I do not want to say so much,” Bartomeu said. “Neymar’s father has already said that Madrid were after him, and they did not like him coming to Barca. Every time he plays well they charge us. That is the big question.
“Maybe it is that we have signed Neymar and that triggered movement from someone who did not want him to come to Barcelona. Someone has crossed the red line and we must say ‘enough.’ There are too many things connected, and it must be stopped. We have done nothing wrong.”
Bartomeu is still ludicrously clinging to the story that the transfer fee for Neymar was €57 million, saying that the other payments were to do with separate work done for the club by the player’s father, and that the deep investigation of the deal was highly unusual in Spain and suggested the Catalan club was being specifically targeted.
“It was what we said, although there are contracts for work which his father does,” he said. “We maintain that he cost 57 million euros. In the prosecutors’ document other quantities are added in, but the important thing is there are other teams with power who did not like that we signed him. It is the first time a club has been charged in a state like Spain, which has so many problems with corruption, and apart from the sporting side this makes us think there is something else.
“Maybe it is coincidence that when Barcelona begin to win, the prosecutors move in less than 24 hours. It is not normal. Nothing like this has been seen for many years. That they investigate me, my business, and my directors, also does not seem normal. And I can include in this the players who have also suffered inspections. They are looking at Barca under a magnifying glass. There are powers in the state who do not like what is happening at Barcelona. We are receiving too many attacks.”
This is the most out of touch response yet for Bartomeu. Barca paid €40 million to a company owned by Neymar’s father. What work is Neymar’s father doing that is worth €40 million?