Brazil soccer star 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.
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 the defendants have denied any 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.”
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.
Spanish prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison term and a 10 million euro ($9.8 million) fine for Neymar. They are also seeking a five-year jail term for Rosell and an 8.4 million euro fine for Barcelona.
A court document released in July alleges that Barcelona initiated negotiations on Nov. 15, 2011, with the player, paying him 40 million euros 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 evidence. Neymar and his parents had the right not to testify but decided to do so.
Neymar’s lawyers say that competition rules relate to products and services and do not apply to the transfer market.
The court later heard from André Cury, Barca’s former point man in Brazil, whose testimony as a witness on the negotiations over the player was expected to be key for the case.
Cury said Barcelona had asked Neymar’s father to get a letter from Santos authorising the player to start negotiations with the Spanish club.
He said Barcelona agreed to advancing a 10 million euro loan to Neymar’s parents in 2011 from what he called an insurance contract that would oblige Neymar to pay 40 million euros to Barcelona in the case he decided to sign with another club.
Neymar and his parents were excused from staying for the rest of the trial, which is expected to last until Monday.
Neymar is expected on Wednesday to resume training with Paris St Germain, which he joined in 2017. The team face Ajaccio on Friday, before hosting Maccabi Haifa in a Champions League game on Oct. 25.