Neymar-Barca saga spills from courtship to courtroom drama

Neymar and his former club Barcelona have finally booked a date, but in court rather than on the pitch. (AFP)
Updated 27 September 2019

Neymar-Barca saga spills from courtship to courtroom drama

  • The two sides face off at a labor court for a multimillion-euro legal battle over a contract dispute

BARCELONA: After a summer of courtship, with Barcelona wooing Neymar to come back, the Brazilian star and his former club have finally agreed a date — but in court rather than on the pitch.

Both sides will meet at a court in the Barcelona suburbs on Friday for a multimillion-euro legal battle over a contract dispute.

Although a court spokesman said the 27-year-old superstar was obliged to show up in person, it was not immediately clear whether he would actually attend.

Barca initially sued Neymar for breach of contract after his shock transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, less than a year after signing a new five-year deal with the Catalan giants.

Worth €222 million ($250 million at the time), the transfer remains the highest sum ever paid for a player.

Barcelona are demanding €8.5 million in damages plus interest, and have refused to pay Neymar the €26 million which was part of his contract renewal bonus signed in 2016.

The Brazilian responded by filing suit against the club over the unpaid bonus, with the two sides set to face off at a labor court on Friday morning.

But his return to the city will be far from the triumphant homecoming the Catalan club had hoped after a summer locked in futile talks with PSG to allow the world’s most expensive player to return.

“Neymar did everything possible (to sign for Barcelona) because it was what he wanted,” Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu said earlier this month.

“The deal didn’t go through because the club could not meet PSG’s demands.”

“It’s a closed chapter,” the striker said after making his first appearance with PSG 10 days ago after four months out as he tried to secure a return to Barca. The Paris home crowd booed and jeered him during the 1-0 win against Strasbourg in which he scored the only goal.

With the long-running transfer saga over for now, the legal dispute takes center stage, focusing on the contract renewal bonus that was signed between the player and the club in 2016.

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

But when he moved to PSG barely a year later, Barcelona refused to pay.

The Spanish club are demanding that he return the part of the bonus he already received as well as €8.5 million plus interest in compensation for breach of contract.

Neymar promptly filed a countersuit demanding payment of the €26 million with interest, and also filed a complaint with world footballing body FIFA, which was not taken up.

On Friday morning, the two parties will attend a private half-hour session with the judge in a bid to resolve the dispute before the hearing opens at 10:00 a.m. in a session which is open to the public.

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

Neymar’s public relations agency, NR Sports, admitted in March that the tax authorities had requested documents and information relating to the ongoing lawsuit, but insisted that the player was not the subject of a new tax investigation in Spain.

The young striker has been beset by legal problems since his arrival in Europe in 2013 following his move to the Catalan giants from Brazil’s Santos.

Barca valued the transfer at €57.1 million but the Spanish judicial authorities estimated it actually amounted to at least €83.3 million, triggering a string of legal cases in both countries, some of which remain unresolved.

And when he transferred to PSG following an obsessive need to emerge from the shadow of Lionel Messi and win the Ballon d’Or, things have not become any easier. In the last few months, the superstar who has a huge social media following, found himself facing a rape allegation, which was dropped in August, and an assault charge for hitting a fan after PSG’s shock defeat by Rennes in April’s Coupe de France final.

Saudi helpers step up to the tee at first women’s golf tournament

Updated 19 min 17 sec ago

Saudi helpers step up to the tee at first women’s golf tournament

  • Volunteers will have the chance to step inside the ropes and get up close with the sport’s leading players

JEDDAH: Saudi volunteers will be able to write their names into the history books by helping at the first-ever Saudi Ladies International professional golf tournament.

Competition organizers are looking to recruit hundreds of people to help with the smooth running of the four-day event from March 19-22 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).

Volunteers will have the chance to step inside the ropes and get up close with the sport’s leading players, including Order of Merit winner Beth Allen, three-time Ladies European Tour (LET) winner Carly Booth and Solheim Cup hero Azahara Munoz, as they compete for $1 million in prize money. 

The LET tournament in Saudi Arabia will mark the first time that professional female golfers have played competitively in the country, and comes hot on the heels of last month’s triumphant men’s equivalent, the Saudi International, won by Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.

Online registration is now open for the debut event’s volunteers’ program.

Volunteers will be briefed before the event and receive a tournament uniform to wear while they work.

Marshals, including traveling, static, crossing and transitional positions, will be required for the tournament. Mobile scoreboard operators and walking scorers are among other roles that will offer volunteers a unique insight into the world-class event.

Mike Oliver, event director at Golf Saudi, said: “For the first year of this event, we are offering volunteers a chance to be part of history, working at the first professional women’s golf event to be held in the country.

“Volunteers, from both Saudi Arabia and abroad, will play a key role in helping us deliver a successful inaugural tournament,” he said.

A certificate of service will be presented to volunteers at the completion of the tournament.

As a bonus, volunteers will have their photo taken with the 2020 ladies winner during the prize presentation — a moment that will be seen by a worldwide audience via live broadcasts.