Neymar trial opens in Barcelona ahead of World Cup

With just a month to go before the World Cup, Brazilian superstar Neymar faces a court hearing in Spain on Monday over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona almost a decade ago.

The trial, which opens at 10:00 (0800 GMT) in Barcelona Provincial Court, is the culmination of a years-long legal battle surrounding his transfer from Brazilian club Santos in 2013.

Neymar is one of nine defendants charged with corruption, including his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs.

All three are charged with corruption in business life.

Investigators began investigating the transfer after a complaint was filed in 2015 by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 percent of the player’s sports rights when he was at Santos.

Barcelona said the transfer cost €57.1m but prosecutors believe it was at least €83m.

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The club said they paid €40m to N&N and €17.1m to Santos, of which €6.8m went to DIS.

But DIS claim that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club worked together to hide the true cost of the deal.

Among the other accused are two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, as well as ex-Santos manager Odilio Rodrigues Filho.

– “Complicity in Fraud” –

Neymar, now at Paris Saint-Germain, is expected to appear in court on day one, although this hasn’t been officially confirmed.

He will testify on either October 21 or October 28, but it is not known if he needs to be physically present. The trial is scheduled to end on October 31.

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If convicted, he faces two years in prison and a fine of 10 million euros.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is set to speak via video conference on Tuesday to explain how a secret preliminary deal between Barca and Neymar in 2011 impacted the market.

“Neymar Junior, with the complicity of his parents and FC Barcelona and its directors at the time, and later FC Santos, defrauded the DIS of its legitimate financial interests,” DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser said on Thursday.

DIS wants to reclaim 35 million euros.

– Set for World Cup –

Neymar’s lawyers insist their client is innocent and say the €40m is a ‘legal signing bonus that’s normal in the football transfer market’.

The footballer is having one of his best seasons since joining PSG after a world record €222m transfer in 2017.

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He scored the only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 win over bitter rivals Marseille at the Parc des Princes in Paris. Neymar has nine goals and seven assists in 11 Ligue 1 games.

But his relations with France international superstar Kylian Mbappe appear strained as the 23-year-old is reportedly demanding PSG sell the Brazilian.

Neymar is also expected to play a key role for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar as the South American giants look to lift the trophy for the first time since 2002 and sixth time overall.

He will lead the Selecao into their Group G opener against Serbia on 24 November.

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