Neymar, Barcelona legal battle goes to court after talks collapse

BARCELONA (AFP) – Lawyers for Brazilian footballer Neymar and Spanish champions Barcelona failed yesterday in their bid to avert a multi-million-dollar court battle over a tangled contact dispute.

“It is going to court,” Barcelona lawyer Josep Vives told journalists outside the court after the closed-door reconciliation talks had collapsed.

A court official told journalists that the hearing which is open to the public began yesterday.

The case revolves around a decision by Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, to quit Barcelona in 2017 and join Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in a stunning coup for the French club.

The move angered the Spanish giants who filed a complaint for breach of contract against the 27-year-old superstar who had pledged loyalty to Barcelona by signing a new deal just one year earlier.

Neymar’s shock transfer to PSG for a world record EUR222 million came less than a year after he signed a contract that would have kept him at the Spanish club until 2021.

As well as filing a lawsuit, Barcelona refused to pay him EUR26 million, which were part of his contract renewal bonus.

The young Brazilian quickly hit back with a lawsuit demanding payment of the bonus in full.

Although the full sum of the bonus has never been clear, Neymar received an initial payout and was to have received the rest in instalments over the course of his new contract.

The Spanish club is demanding he return the part of the loyalty bonus already received as well as EUR8.5 million plus interest in compensation for breach of contract.

Neymar promptly filed a countersuit demanding payment of the EUR26 million with interest.

According to El Mundo daily, the case is being closely watched by the Spanish tax authorities who are keen to know whether Neymar, who was a tax resident in 2017, paid his dues on both the bonus and his transfer to PSG.

Back in March, Neymar’s public relations agency, NR Sports, admitted the tax authorities had requested documents but insisted the player was not the subject of a new tax investigation in Spain.