The club president is adamant they conducted themselves admirably during the legal proceedings surrounding the Brazilian’s move and says they will learn to handle Luis Suarez
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits the club’s image “has suffered” following Neymar’s controversial transfer but insists they “have learned a lot”.
The Brazilian’s €57.1 million move from Santos is being investigated by prosecutors after socio Jordi Cases raised concerns over missing payments made during the negotiations for the player.
Barca allegedly failed to declare an additional €37.9m, which was paid to a company close to Neymar’s family, and the ensuing court proceedings and tax sanctions prompted the resignation of former president Sandro Rosell.
The Blaugrana also suffered an ignominious year on the pitch, losing their domestic crown to Atletico Madrid and suffering Copa del Rey final heartbreak against Real Madrid, while Fifa imposed a transfer ban due to alleged inappropriate signings of young players – a sanction which is currently suspended.
Bartomeu concedes the image of the club has been tarnished in the past 12 months but insists they have conducted themselves better than many of their contemporaries would during the controversies.
“We have learnt a lot this past year,” he told The Times.
“A lot of the things that have happened have not been positive, but in a sense they have all been good experiences, because they have informed what we will do in the future.
“We do not feel our standing [in world football] has fallen on the pitch. Any team can have one season when they do not win a major trophy. That is football. Maybe we feel that in some aspects off the pitch [our image has suffered]: the problem with Fifa and the young players, the issue with Neymar. Maybe our image has suffered for these things. But you have to learn when things are not as good as they can be, and we have.”
“This is not a normal club. You can ask any one of our members — and there are almost 160,000 of them, who between them own the club — what ‘mes que un club’ means to them. They would all say something different.
“It means we have to be democratic, transparent, that we have to explain everything we do. Some think that [in the Neymar case] we were not transparent. But because a member asked us [to disclose the transfer amount], we did. It is the exact opposite. We were completely transparent. No other club in the world has to do that or would do that.
“We have a pressure not just to be better than everyone else in a football sense, but in a social sense, in an economic sense, in terms of the real state of the club. We know, though, that we have to be better and better in every sphere, to be more efficient and more professional at the board level, at the top of the club. That is what we are trying to do.”
Barca completed an €88m deal for Luis Suarez this summer despite the player currently hit with a worldwide footballing ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup.
Bartomeu, however, insists the player has put it firmly in the past through his apology and says they will learn from Liverpool over how best to manage the Uruguay star.
“His reputation did not influence our thinking, not at all,” Bartomeu added. “We will help him to come back to a proper way of playing and of acting. He knows he did wrong. That is why he apologised. Everyone knows that what he did was wrong. For us, that is enough. We want him to perform as he did at Liverpool — and let’s not forget that last season he acted perfectly. We have to learn from what Liverpool did.
“At La Masia, we do not just produce players. We create people, too. They grow with the values that we teach them. When we buy players, it is one of our commitments and obligations that they act in the way the club demands.
“We want to win, yes, but we feel we can do that while still being moral.”