The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Barca president pleads innocence on tax fraud in Neymar transfer, club would do it all again
MADRID - Barcelona's president backed the signing of Neymar, saying the club had no regrets over how it signed the Brazil forward despite being charged with tax fraud to the bewilderment of the team's coach.
A Spanish judge charged Barcelona with the crime on Thursday, alleging it swindled the state of 9.1 million euros ($12.5 million) through payments to varying companies and false contracts.
The high-profile transfer saga led to club president Sandro Rosell's resignation with the true cost of the deal rising from the initial 57.1 million euros ($74 million) that was revealed to 86.2 million euros ($118 million).
"Everything happening around Neymar is not normal," Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said on Friday. "But I'm not surprised by it. I'm already used to just about everything here. I just prefer to focus on the football."
Of the initial transfer fee, Brazilian club Santos received 17.1 million euros ($23 million) while Neymar's father, who also goes by Neymar, earned 40 million euros ($55 million). After Rosell's resignation, the club revealed a complex number of further payments that took the deal to its final tally, and which does not include Neymar's salary.
"We did everything according to the letter of the law and we'll go wherever we have to, to explain it," president Josep Bartomeu said in an interview on the Spanish state broadcaster.
"Our contract with Neymar and Santos is totally legal. The negotiations, the transactions, the contracts, everything was done legally and we would do it all again the exact same way."
The court is also investigating a separate complaint made against Rosell, Bartomeu and another Barcelona vice-president, Javier Faus, and Neymar's father for misappropriation of funds and document fraud.
"All the money that my company receives comes to Brazil, even those contracts with companies with headquarters abroad," Neymar's father was quoted as saying on his son's official website. "Everything is received in Brazil and, of course, all of our taxes collected here."
Neymar has helped Barcelona to the top of the Spanish league standings alongside Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, into the last 16 of the Champions League, and April's Copa del Rey final where Real Madrid awaits.
"Everything that's going on with Neymar isn't normal, but based on the minutes he's playing and how he looks on the field, he is OK. But I don't know what's going on inside his head," Martino said. "He may feel aggrieved or surprised by what is happening. But I'm not with the player all day, every day to know how he is. But he seems fine to me."
The case came to court after club member Jordi Cases, a pharmacist from the town of Olesa near Barcelona, filed a lawsuit requesting details into the transfer fee.
"It's clear that the signing was completely legal and transparent," said Bartomeu, who stepped in for Rosell after his resignation. "All of this will just amount to an anecdote in the end."
Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP
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