The war of words between Barcelona and Neymar continued with vice-president Jordi Mestre claiming the Brazilian’s dishonesty when leaving the club is the sole reason for the surge in transfer fees over the last six months.
Neymar left Barca in August when Paris Saint-Germain paid his release clause, making him the world’s most expensive player at €222 million.
As a knock-on effect, the Catalan side will end up spending €300m on Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho if all the add-ons are fulfilled, while the cost of players around Europe has spiralled.
Mestre says the price of players could have been contained, at least for now, if Neymar had been honest with the club rather than playing “cat and mouse.”
“What hurt me the most was the way it happened,” he told Diario Sport. “We were all on tour talking with him and his father, and they were not transparent.
“If he came to us and said, I want to go, like Cesc [Fabregas], Pedro [Rodriguez], Alexis [Sanchez] and [Javier] Mascherano, we would have reached an agreement.
“What you can’t do is rock the boat. He played cat and mouse with us. He told us nothing. If he had done, PSG would have been able to buy him for less money and it would have cost us less to sign [replacements], too.
“What Neymar’s behaviour created was the market inflation. We would have saved a lot of money and a lot of media noise.”
When Barca realised what was going on, they decided to withhold the second half of the bonus they were due to pay Neymar for the contract renewal he signed at Camp Nou at the end of 2016.
Neymar filed a claim to FIFA in August against Barcelona for the unpaid bonus and took a complaint to the courts last week, demanding the club pay him €26m plus interest.
Barca responded by suing the PSG forward for breach of contract.
“It got to a point where we saw where things were going so we told him we would not pay his contract renewal bonus,” Mestre added.
“I’m convinced that’s why he wasn’t more open [because he wanted the bonus]. And I’m annoyed about that. Now we will go to court and the judge will decide.”
Despite the bad blood, Mestre says he understands Neymar’s desire to leave and prove himself away from Lionel Messi’s shadow.
“Neymar saw he would never be No. 1 while Messi was at Barcelona,” he said. “And, evidently, there will only be one Messi. He realised to be No. 1 in the world he would have to leave Barca and it’s fair enough for him to think like that.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.