Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar Jr told a court on Tuesday he did not participate in negotiations over his transfer to “childhood dream” club Barcelona from Santos in 2013, but had signed what his father had told him to.
Neymar’s parents, former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and representatives for both the Spanish club and the Brazilian team have also appeared in court, after a complaint brought by Brazilian investment group DIS regarding the amount of the player’s transfer.
Along with Neymar, 30, eight other defendants are on trial on fraud and corruption charges over the transfer, including his parents, representatives of the two clubs, former Barca presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, and former Santos president Odilio Rodrigues.
All defendants have denied wrongdoing.
“I didn’t participate in the negotiations. My father always took care of it and always will. I sign everything he tells me to sign,” Neymar told the court in Barcelona in his first testimony in the trial that began on Monday.
“Playing for Barcelona was always my dream, a childhood dream.”
What is the background to the Neymar trial?
The case centres on an allegation made by Brazilian investment firm DIS, which owned 40% of the rights to Neymar when he was at Brazil’s Santos, that it lost out on its rightful cut from the transfer because the value of the deal was understated.
The alleged offence of which Neymar Jr and his family are accused of is also not punishable by law in Brazil.
Neymar and his father could face a prison sentence of up to two years if found guilty. They could also face a fine of more than £8.7m (€10m).
Rosell could face a five-year jail term and Barcelona an €8.4m fine.
A court document released in July alleges that Barcelona initiated negotiations in 2011 with the player, paying him €40m to ensure his move when his contract with Santos expired in 2014 and thereby preventing other clubs from signing him.
“Our intention was to prepare a career plan for him in Europe, in which we had in place already established, could learn the language, etc. And knowing his dream to play for Barcelona, we signed that priority agreement with them,” the player’s father, Neymar da Silva Santos, told the court.
None of the defendants who are representatives or former figures at the clubs have yet given their evidence. Neymar and his parents had the right not to testify but decided to do so, answering questions only from the prosecutor and from their own layers.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, appearing as a witness via videolink, told the court his club had made offers of €45m in 2011 and €36m in 2013 to sign Neymar but the player chose to join Barcelona instead.
Law firm Baker McKenzie, which is defending Neymar, who joined Paris St Germain in 2017, and his family, has said in a statement it will argue that the Spanish courts lack jurisdiction because the transfer involved a Brazilian national in Brazil.
Neymar’s lawyers say that competition rules relate to products and services and do not apply to the transfer market.
The trial comes nearly a month before the World Cup opens in Qatar and is expected to last until the end of the October.