Neymar appears in court in trial over Barcelona transfer


BARCELONA, Spain — A few hours after scoring the winning goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s victory over Marseille in the French league, Neymar arrived in court in Spain on Monday to face a trial for alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona in 2013.

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Neymar’s parents, former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and representatives for both the Spanish club and Brazilian team Santos also appeared in court after a complaint brought by Brazilian investment group DIS regarding the amount of the player’s transfer.

The Brazil forward arrived at the court in Barcelona wearing sunglasses and a black suit and tie. Neymar’s mother and father, who also is his agent, were among those arriving alongside the player.

What is the latest?

The defendants, who have denied wrongdoing, sat near each other to hear the opening arguments in the trial that comes nearly a month before the World Cup opens on Nov. 20 in Qatar, and is expected to last until the end of the month.

Neymar and the rest of the defendants have to be in court for the first day of the trial, but the player is only expected to testify on Friday.

On Sunday night, Neymar scored his ninth French league goal of the season in first-half stoppage time to lead PSG to a 1-0 win over Marseille in French soccer’s biggest game.

What are the charges?

Neymar and his father face corruption charges. Prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of up to two years, although any jail time would likely be suspended. DIS asked for a five-year prison sentence for the 30-year-old Neymar and his father, and for compensation of 34 million euros ($32.1 million) and a fine of 195 million euros ($190 million) that would be paid to the Spanish state.

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Prosecutors seek a fine of 10 million euros ($9.7 million) for Neymar and his father. They also seek five years in prison for Rosell for fraud and corruption charges, plus a fine of 10 million euros ($9.7 million).

Neymar’s representatives have argued that the crime of corruption between individuals was not punishable in Brazil, which is where they say the transactions originally took place. They said that according to Spanish law, a crime can’t be punished in Spain if it didn’t happen in both territories.

The financial details

DIS was entitled to 40% of Neymar’s transfer but said it received a smaller compensation because part of the transfer fee was concealed. Prosecutors said those involved tried to hide the real amount of the transfer in order to pay a lower commission to the investment group.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that DIS only received its due percentage from the 17 million euros ($16.6 million) that Barcelona and Santos initially announced as the transfer fee between the clubs, while the real cost was about 82 million euros ($79.9 million). An investigative judge in Spain has already said that the real cost was at least 83.3 million euros ($81.2 million).

Neymar and his father previously appeared in court in Madrid a few years ago because of the accusations.

Neymar made his highly anticipated move to Spain at age 21. He helped Barcelona win the club’s last Champions League title in 2015, and eventually became involved in a soap-opera like transfer to PSG in 2017.

Neymar’s move from Santos also got Barcelona in trouble with Spain’s tax office. In 2016, the Catalan club paid a fine of 5.5 million euros ($5.3 million now) to settle a separate case brought by authorities. In that settlement, the club acknowledged it had made “an error in the fiscal planning of the player’s transfer.”

USMNT, European review: Messi still Messi, Sargent shines again


It wasn’t simply a great weekend for Leeds’ USMNT trio of Jesse Marsch, Tyler Adams, and Brenden Aaronson, but for others in the USMNT as well, and that’s where we’ll begin our review of Americans in the top tier of European football and the title races within those leagues.

A couple of USMNT strikers in Europe, Jordan Pefok of Union Berlin and Josh Sargent of Norwich City, made their cases for the World Cup roster with goal contributions.

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Sargent scored a brace in a nice win for the Canaries when Norwich City beat Millwall 2-0 to join the Lions with a 2W-1D-2L record.

Sargent, 22, started over Teemu Pukki and built off the goal he scored against Huddersfield Town in Norwich’s first win of the Championship season. He is feeling good about his play up top.

“I naturally press the goalkeeper, it’s something I have inside of me,” Sargent said. “I’m hungry for the ball, so I like pressing. Huge credit tonight as well to Dowell and Nunez, they have great vision with the ball and put me in great positions to be able to finish them.”

Norwich gets Bournemouth next in a League Cup match, and Sargent’s role there will be worth watching, as will the USMNT players and European leagues we monitored this weekend. Dig into that, below.

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Ligue 1: Messi, Mbappe and PSG preen; Balogun scores for Reims

Talk about a message-sending win: Paris Saint-Germain smashed Lille, scoring in the first minute and four times before halftime of a rout. Lionel Messi assisted Kylian Mbappe’s opener and then scored in the 28th minute before Achraf Hakimi and Neymar got in on the action. Mbappe finished with a hat trick and an assist while Neymar finished with a brace and two assists in the 7-1 win.

Lille’s USMNT forward Timothy Weah missed the game through injury as PSG improved to a perfect 3-0 on the season. Elsewhere, USMNT eligible English youth international Folarin Balogun scored for Reims on loan from Arsenal, while Erik Palmer-Brown and Troyes were thrashed by Lyon.

La Liga: Villarreal, Real Madrid lead the way; Musah starts, sees yellow

There are still several 2-0 teams in La Liga and could be more before the end of the match week, but as of kickoff there are two who have really caught the eye. Villarreal improved to 2-0 by beating Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, while Real Madrid clobbered Celta Vigo 4-1 away.

As for USMNT players in Spain, Yunus Musah had a solid game in a 1-0 Valencia loss at Athletic Bilbao but was on a yellow card had to be withdrawn with a half-hour to play. Luca de la Torre had a decent, very short cameo in Celta Vigo’s 4-1 loss to Real Madrid. Sergino Dest wasn’t even in Xavi’s 23-man matchday squad vs Real Sociedad.

Bundesliga: Bayern scores 7 as the lone perfect side; Scally second

Bayern Munich scored seven goals for Julian Nagelsmann to give it 15 goals to go with a lone concession, a big win over Bochum leaving it the only 3-0 team in the German top flight.

There are USMNT players on two of the three teams to sit tied for second with seven points. We detailed Jordan Pefok’s Union Berlin heroics on Saturday — his goal and assist led Union — and Joe Scally went 90 minutes as Daniel Farke’s Gladbach improved to 2W-1D on the young season with a 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin. Ricardo Pepi was a sub in Augsburg’s loss at Mainz.

UEFA Champions League: PSG falls apart; Real Madrid, Man City through


Paris Saint-Germain blew a 2-0 aggregate lead while Man City’s five-goal first-leg lead was safe as Real Madrid joined the Premier League leaders as UEFA Champions League quarterfinalists on Wednesday.

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Real and Man City joined Tuesday’s qualifiers Liverpool and Bayern Munich as the final eight will have a familiar Iook regardless of who wins next week’s second legs.

Villarreal and Juventus are level at 1 as are Atletico Madrid and Manchester United. Chelsea leads Lille 2-0 while Benfica and Ajax are level at 2.

Man City walks to quarterfinals

Such is Manchester City’s dominance of Sporting Lisbon that its 5-0 first-leg lead allowed it to stage a Round of 16 leg with a UCL debutant teen at right back (CJ Egan-Riley) and another 19-year-old (James McAtee) subbing in at the break.

City still had 68 percent of the ball and took the only four shots of the first half and bettered its possession numbers in the second half to 69 percent, taking 10 more shots to Sporting’s six in a 0-0 draw at the Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola also handed substitute appearances to Luke Mbete and veteran goalkeeper Scott Carson, but the Man of the Match was still probably Sporting goalkeeper Antonio Adan. The 34-year-old had four saves and a clean sheet against City counts in any match.

Pochettino’s PSG falls apart in Madrid

Karim Benzema scored a 17-minute hat trick for Real Madrid as Paris Saint-Germain let a 1-0 first-leg lead and 2-0 advantage at the hour mark wash away to nothing against one of the tournament’s most decorated teams.

Kylian Mbappe had put PSG ahead off a beautiful Neymar feed and powerful finish, and PSG should’ve been up by more than one at the break. But a rare Gigi Donnarumma error put Real back in the game.

Lionel Messi had a 96-touch, 93 percent passing day but was rarely allowed into dangerous positions, as Neymar and Mbappe were decent but rusty and/or not 100%.

After runner-up and semifinalist appearances the past two seasons, PSG goes out in the familiar Round of 16 that served as a club stop sign for three tournaments between 2016-17 and 2018-19.

Real gives Carlo Ancelotti a memorable win and further etches Karim Benzema in its annals as an absolute legend (at least on the field).

Nice goal for PSG, though.

Neymar out after gruesome ankle injury, Messi 3 assists in PSG win


Lionel Messi fueled a second-half comeback win for Paris Saint-Germain that will be overshadowed by a gruesome injury to Neymar and his troublesome ankle.

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Messi assisted a pair of goals from Marquinhos sandwiched around his set-up of Angel Di Maria as PSG overcame an early 1-0 deficit.

Neymar had a tough day outside of the win, his sixth-minute goal overturned by VAR before a hard sliding tackle caught his foot at the ankle.  The Brazilian megastar’s foot rolled under his leg and he was in tears as he left the match with PSG up 2-1 in the 88th minute.

PSG released a statement confirming that the Brazilian superstar has suffered ankle ligament damage and will be missing for 6-8 weeks.

“Tests carried out last night confirm that Neymar Jr suffered a sprained left ankle with ligament damage. An unavailability of 6 to 8 weeks is to be expected. A new point will be made in 72 hours to specify the evolution.”

That means Neymar will miss two big games coming up this week against Nice and Lens, who both sit in the top of the Ligue 1 table, plus against Monaco next week. This injury means he should return in January, which may rule him out of Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers.

With Neymar out, PSG will need Messi and Kylian Mbappe to step up and Angel di Maria will also play a big role.

Les Parisiens lead the way in Ligue 1

Denis Bouanga gave Saint-Etienne the early lead with a VAR-awarded goal, but their task got bigger when Timothee Kolodziejczak was shown a 45th-minute red card for a “last man back” foul.

PSG had 71 percent of the ball and held a 15-8 shot advantage over Saint-Etienne, who has shockingly slipped to last in the Ligue 1 table.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men are now 13-1-1 and have a 14-point lead on the chasing pack. Nice is in second.

Brazil vs Argentina suspended; COVID flap over Premier League quartet


Brazil vs Argentina, the showpiece of this international break and perhaps all of World Cup qualifying until the playoffs, has been suspended in a shocking turn of affairs.

Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa demanded that Argentina’s Premier League quartet of Emi Buendia, Emiliano Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso, and Cristian Romero be in isolation after spending part of the last 14 days in the United Kingdom.

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Brazil’s national team has been hampered by clubs not releasing their players for the international break, with Thiago Silva, Fabinho, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison, Ederson, Allison Becker, Fred, and Raphinha all missing from action.

There are questions as to whether Argentina broke Brazilian health protocols in the run-up to the game as we await comment from FIFA. CONMEBOL has said decisions related to World Cup qualifiers lie in the hands of the world’s governing body.

Still, it’s difficult to read Anvisa’s move as anything other than cynical — interfering in World Cup qualifying, no less — as Argentina’s players have been in Brazil for three days and the officials had ample time to intervene at the team headquarters, on the bus to the match, or upon entry to the facility.

Yet reports are speculating that Lo Celso, Romero, Martinez, and Buendia may have been taken into isolation. Remember: both teams have played matches this international break.

From Paul Gilmour at Sky Sports:

“We can confirm the game has been suspended (confirmed by both associations)

“Local reports suggest Brazilian health authorities want to deport the Premier League players (Lo Celso, Romero, Martinez and Buendia).

“Brazil entry requirements state anyone who has been in the UK in last 14 days must quarantine.”

What makes the surprising halt to the game downright stunning is that the match began at all. Argentina players walked off the field at 11 minutes after officials approached the field after seven minutes.

The Brazil team stayed on the pitch for nearly 40 minutes even as Lionel Messi returned from the Argentina dressing room in a bid to discuss affairs with Casemiro, Neymar, and officials.

Oh, to be FIFA president Gianni Infantino right now. Farcical.

An already congested World Cup qualifying schedule will be thrown into chaos here, as the two best teams in CONMEBOL qualifying so far could be a match behind the field or be playing on less rest for their third match of this break if the match picks up Sunday.

This, in the small picture, would be hugely beneficial to Brazil if it can reschedule this game when European clubs may be comfortable releasing their stars. Also, in all pictures, it’s embarrassing for CONMEBOL and FIFA (not to mention detrimental to those of us ready to make Brazil vs Argentina (and Neymar vs Messi) an incredible appetizer for USMNT vs Canada).