Josep Maria Bartomeu faced the press for just over two hours this evening and took questions for the first time as Barça’s new president. Bartomeu confirmed he will complete the mandate won by Sandro Rosell’s team in the 2010 elections and that he has the intention of presenting the same team at the next elections in 2016 with the intention of serving another six-year term.
Bartomeu gave a very competent performance in answering questions on a number of subjects ranging from regrets over saying Eric Abidal’s contract would be renewed if he played again (a misunderstanding as he meant to say the contract which was in suspension would be reactivated) or whether he intends to call Johan Cruyff (yes) to his arguments to revalidate his presidency given the members voted for Rosell to which he responded by mentioning the club statutes and that he formed part of Rosell’s candidacy.
Obviously most interest was centred on the controversial Neymar transfer and Bartomeu tried to stay one step ahead by bringing up the subject in his initial statement and then by bringing out Raul Sanllehi, who was the chief negotiator in the Neymar deal, to present the figures step-by-step. Bartomeu claimed that the club hadn’t previously been able to reveal all the details because of confidentiality clauses, but that Neymar’s father, having seen all the kerfuffle being caused this week, decided to call Barça and lift the clauses.
Sanllehi presented the figures with a screen which unfortunately didn’t help because it appeared to be hurriedly prepared. The numbers were presented, first the €40 million to Neymar’s parents’ company N&N, this payment was due to the clause in the 2011 precontract which Barça felt it necessary to pay to prevent another club (read Real Madrid here, though Bartomeu said many big clubs were interested) from paying the other clause of €40 million to Barça in order to poach the player.
Next was the €17.1 million paid to Santos as a fee for their part of Neymar’s rights. So far so good as we now reach the €57.1 million that Barça continue to insist was the total price for the transfer. Sanllehi then went on to talk of other payments and concepts, a €2 million bonus if Neymar becomes a Ballon d’Or finalist, €4 million for marketing, €2 million to Neymar’s father’s scouting firm, a 5% payment to an agent and two friendly games which he claimed were ‘free’. It all became a bit confusing. While the €7.9 million paid to Santos for the option on three young players may be seen to be separate from the Neymar deal and the €2.5 million dedicated to social works in Brazil’s favelas can be accepted simply because it is a good thing to do, it is difficult to accept that a friendly is free when it seems Santos will earn €4.5 million from each game, and the €2 million for the scouting company could easily be a cover for an extra payment. Bizarrely, Sanllehi finished by adding up his own figures, arriving at a figure of €86.2 million plus the €2 million Ballon d’Or bonus and then clarifying by saying the figure was meaningless as the total amount paid for the Neymar transfer was €57.1 million. It was all too confusing for some, one journalist complained that he had tried adding up the figures several time and that he kept arriving at €73.5 million.
Taking questions from the press Bartomeu admitted that he could also be included in the judge’s investigation into the case but he insisted he had no intention of resigning even if he were eventually charged as he has done nothing wrong. In this sense he remained strong as he did in his backing for his ‘friend’ Rosell. He reinforced the importance in Rosell’s decision of the death threats against his family, however, later when asked if he thought Rosell had been happy in the job, the new president let slip that he’d seen a happy Rosell ‘until a couple of days ago’ which only succeeded in demonstrating the dominating reason for Rosell’s resignation to be Judge Ruz’s decision on Wednesday to investigate the case. The insistence that Barça have done nothing wrong combined with Rosell’s sudden change of heart this week makes a difficult equation. Bartomeu put on a good show of being a man in control of the situation and his willingness to answer all questions directly was creditable. We will now have to see if Jordi Cases continues or not with the case. It seems very clear that Cases is acting as a Barcelonista with his best intentions for the well-being of the club. Many feel he may let the matter lie now as he had no intention of causing a crisis within the club. We should know one way or the other next week.