Lawyers for Brazilian footballer Neymar and Spanish champions Barcelona were meeting Friday in a last-ditch effort to untangle a contract dispute and avert a multi-million-dollar court battle.
Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, quit Barcelona in 2017 and joined Paris Saint-Germain 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 the Spanish club by signing a new deal just one year earlier.
Neymar arrived in Barcelona Thursday ahead of the court hearing set for 10:00 am (0800 GMT) Friday but was not seen with his lawyers for a pre-hearing reconciliation meeting aimed at resolving the dispute without a court hearing.
“The reconciliation meeting was suspended and will resume at 11:45 am with lawyers from both sides seeking a solution,” a court spokesman said.
The dispute stems from Neymar’s shock transfer to PSG for a world record 222 million euros ($250 million at the time), less than a year after signing a contract that would have kept him at the Spanish club until 2021.
Barcelona filed suit and refused to pay him 26 million euros, which were part of his contract renewal bonus.
After an unsuccessful appeal to world footballing body FIFA, the young Brazilian quickly hit back with a lawsuit over the unpaid bonus.
– ‘The taxman watching’ –
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 8.5 million euros plus interest in compensation for breach of contract.
Neymar promptly filed a countersuit demanding payment of the 26 million euros 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.
The young striker has been beset by legal problems since his arrival in Europe in 2013 following his move to the Catalan club from Brazil’s Santos.
Barca valued the transfer at 57.1 million euros but Spanish prosecutors believe the amount paid was at least 83.3 million, trigging a string of legal cases in both countries, some of which remain unresolved.
And since transferring to PSG, things have not been 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 in April’s French Cup final.
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