The Barca chief was interpreted by some as suggesting the legal proceedings are the late coach’s fault, but he insists his words have been twisted
The Barca president is facing a potential prison sentence if found guilty of misdemeanours with regards to the financial aspect of Neymar’s transfer in 2013 and a video of Bartomeu addressing public prosecutor Judge Ruz emerged on Friday showing him saying it was Vilanova’s idea to bring forward the move by a year.
That led to claims Bartomeu was pinning the blame on the coach, who died of cancer in April 2014, but the Barca supremo is claiming his words have been twisted from their original intentions.
“It’s a wrong interpretation to say I was blaming Tito,” he said. “I don’t like people playing with Vilanova’s name. I’m disappointed and we are against those who want to tarnish his reputation.
“Sandro Rosell carried out the signing as he was the most known in Brazil. The coach asked us to make sign him as soon as possible and that is how we could sign Neymar one season before.
“Tito is not responsible of anything, just of bringing Neymar to Barca. And that is great, as we are pleased the player is here.”
The quotes Bartomeu was referring to were spoken at a hearing in February and Cadena Ser published a video of the Barca chief’s explanation.
“We spoke to our coach, who at that time was Tito Vilanova, and he asked me and the then president Sandro Rosell if we could bring forward the signing of Neymar by one year as he felt that the team needed a player with his characteristics,” Bartomeu said in legal proceedings with Judge Ruz.
“He wanted to make the signing in 2013 instead of bringing him over in the summer of 2014. The plan was for Neymar to finish the World Cup in Brazil and then move to Barcelona but we wanted to carry out the wishes of the coach.
“Rosell, had a good relationship with his father, spoke to him and we saw how they’d forged a deal to bring him to Barcelona a year ahead of what was originally scheduled.
“The coaches don’t get involved in the price of players. He told us that he only had one match-changing player and wasn’t interested in keeping David Villa. He wanted Villa to leave and that we’d sign Neymar as a striker.
“If Neymar coming wasn’t realistic we’d stick with David Villa who had another year left to run on his contract. We understood the needs of the coach; this happened in New York in February 2013.”
Bartomeu then went on to reveal that Rosell was the one who eventually made the deal happen, stressing he did not play any role in the transfer.
“In this case as it was a Brazilian player and, as Sandro had lived there, he knew the market well, so it was Sandro Rosell who dealt in all negotiation with Neymar’s father.
“Did I get involved with any negotiation with Santos or Neymar’s father? No, no. At no point.”