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Is Neymar the world’s most expensive player?

Jan 20, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

Neymar Getty Images

Barcelona have stated that they paid €57m ($77m) to sign Neymar from Brazilian side Santos last summer, but, if reports are correct, the club actually spent €95m ($129m) to sign the forward – making him the most expensive player in the world.

According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, who allegedly got a look at leaked court documents, Barca paid €38m more than previously stated for the 21 year old wonderkid, with payments listed as going “to scout young talent at Santos” and “to help children in the favelas of Sao Paulo” in fact being made directly to Neymar’s father. By reporting these payments as going to sources other than the Neymar family, Barcelona are saving on their taxes, avoiding paying more on the transfer fee and wages.

The case is currently in trial, with the club asserting its innocence. And it may ultimately be that the allegations remain unproven, as it would be difficult to demonstrate where, exactly, the payments have gone. But should they be true, Neymar could very well be top in the world – in terms of cost, anyway. Cristiano Ronaldo cost Real Madrid €94m, more than the cost of Gareth Bale, widely reported as being €100m, but in actuality falling closer to €91m.

Of possibly greater interest, however, is the fact that, should some of these payments be found to be packaged as part of Neymar’s wages, the youngster may be earning more than teammate Lionel Messi. The Argentine makes €11m ($14.8m) per year, plus bonuses. But if some of the payments allegedly going elsewhere are interpreted by the court as being used to disguise extra wages for Neymar, that could mean the Brazilian is earning around €15m ($20.5m) annually.

It’s highly unlikely that this case will prove irregularities in Barcelona’s accounting. Still, it’s intriguing to think of the young Brazilian being the most valued player in the world – and of him earning more than megastar Messi.

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