MADRID:Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has struggled to explain comments interpreted initially as blaming the late Tito Vilanova for the rushed siging of Neymar in 2013 writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Bartomeu, presidential predecessor Sandro Rosell and the club are fighting a tax evasion court case emanating from the financial confusion over the Brazilian superstar’s signing.

Originally Barcelona had agreed to complete the purchase from Santos in the summer of 2014, after the World Cup finals.

However Bartomeu, in evidence to Judge Pablo Ruz, said that the price of the player had risen because then coach, Tito Vilanova, had pressed the board to bring forward the transfer.

Early media reports interpreted this as Bartomeu seeking to deflect some of the responsibility for the transfer confusion to the coach who died of complications after throat cancer in April 2014.

Later Bartomeu said: “What I said has been misunderstood, deliberately. The memory of Tito Vilanova is something we hold in the highest regard.

“Tito was responsible only for us bringing in Neymar when we did and I think he was right. At the hearing all I did was tell the truth.”

The Spanish public prosecutor is demanding prison sentences for Barcelona’s past and present presidents and a fine for the club after the revelation of secret contracts and clauses in the complex Neymar deal.

The alleged tax fraud runs into a total sums of €2.8m which should have been paid by Barcelona under the terms of contracts signed on June 3 and July 31, 2013, but never declared in their entirety to the tax authorities. The club also negotiated a €234m image rights deal plus an €11.7 contract with Neymar’s father.