Neymar’s transfer from Santos to FC Barcelona was supposed to prolong a dynasty, but it brought down an emperor — Sandro Rosell — instead.
Rosell resigned as Barcelona’s president Thursday after an emergency meeting of the club’s board of directors. Rosell’s resignation comes amid a potential embezzlement scandal, which is tied to last summer’s purchase of Neymar last summer.
At the time, Rosell and Barcelona claimed Neymar cost €57 million (£48.6 million/$78 million), but as much as €95 million (£78.2 million/$130 million) euros might have changed hands in a complicated transfer. Rosell continues to deny that Barcelona paid more than the reported fee. When challenged, he says confidentiality clauses in the contracts prevent him from saying more about the transfer. Financial details of Neymar’s Barcelona move remain shrouded in secrecy, but they could soon come to light.
Last month, a Barcelona member (and Rosell opponent) Jordi Cases filed a lawsuit against Rosell, which seeks clarification on how much was spent and who received what amount.
Rosell tried to block the court proceedings, but a high-court judge agreed to launch an investigation into the matter, saying there was enough evidence to suggest that criminal behavior might have taken place. Rosell likely will be called to a hearing to address allegations of embezzlement.
Rosell has served in this capacity since 2010. His term, which was scheduled to run until 2016, came to a premature close Thursday.
“For some time my family and myself have suffered threats and attacks in silence,” Rosell said, according to the Guardian. “These threats and attacks have made me wonder if being president means having to jeopardize my family.
“In recent days an unfair and reckless accusation of misappropriation has resulted in a lawsuit against me in the Audiencia Nacional. From the beginning I have said that the signing of Neymar Jr. has been correct and his signing has caused despair and envy in some of our adversaries.
“The right of the club members to be informed needs to be compatible with the defense of the club and confidentiality of certain matters and facts. This confidentiality is essential in the world of football because otherwise the club could be damaged.
“The board of directors is a team. And this team leads a project that has brought the club great success. I don’t want unfair attacks to negatively affect their management or the image of the club. This is why I think my time here has come to an end.
“Now, in accordance with the club’s statutes, I have presented my irrevocable resignation of the presidency of FC Barcelona to the board of directors.”
Vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu has assumed Rosell’s role. He’ll oversee Barcelona’s continued pursuit of trophies, as well the redevelopment of its stadium, the Nou Camp.
“I ask the club members for their support,” Bartomeu said. “I encourage them to continue to have confidence in this project.
“The future of the Camp Nou will continue to be a priority.
“We are going to be very firm in the defense and demand the utmost respect for our club.”
Club members could decide to hold new elections later this year.
A “beautiful cycle,” in which Barcelona became one of the greatest teams in European soccer history, has become a rocky road in the last two years. Legendary head coach Pep Guardioala left the Barcelona after the 2012-13 season. At the time, Guardiola said fatigue was the reason for his departure, but it later emerged that his relationship with Rosell had fractured. Cancer caused Guardiola’s replacement, Tito Vilanova, to step down just weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season. Gerardo “Tata” Martino took Vilanova’s place, but he has yet to win over the demanding Nou Camp crowd. Meanwhile, star player Lionel Messi has battled various injuries and dealt with a legal issue of his own (tax problems). The on- and off-field turmoil has negatively affected Barcelona’s performance and will continue to do so.
Neymar’s arrival was thought to herald a new dawn, as Barcelona secured one of the biggest talents Brazil has produced in recent years. The 21-year-old scored 11 goals and set up 12 more so far this season (in all competitions), but a recent ankle injury ruled him out of action for a few weeks.
Despite being off the field, the Brazilian phenom continues to make headlines. Through little fault of his own, these headlines aren’t the good kind.
Photo via Twitter/@UnivisionSports