If anyone were skeptical over how exciting a talent Inter had signed in Gabriel Barbosa, the events of the last few days ought to have shown them the error of their ways. Since the Brazilian forward was announced as our sixth summer signing on 30 August, fresh from his triumphant Olympic football campaign with the Brazilian national team, a storm has erupted over the 19 year-old which at first glance could rumble on for some time. It doesn't put his transfer to Inter at risk in any way at all - he will be available for selection from 25 September no matter what happens before then - but it's quite an intriguing tale nonetheless.
The protagonists in this story are Barcelona and Santos, who are currently at loggerheads over an agreement they reached three years ago which Barca believe has been violated. Back on 25 July 2013 - as stipulated in this official letter that was published by Brazilian newspaper UOL Esporte over the weekend - the two clubs concluded negotiations over the transfer that successively brought Neymar to the Catalan giants, and as part of the deal that was reached Barca paid Santos an additional fee of €3.2m that granted them a sort of first refusal on Gabigol for the future.
Due to this payment, Santos had the obligation thereafter to inform Barcelona of any official offer they received for the player, and allow them three days to match that offer (at which point the ball would be in Gabigol's court and he would have to choose which offer to accept), and that is where the bone of contention lies - Barca have accused Santos of not giving them sufficient notice of his imminent transfer to Inter, and therefore disobeying the agreement both parties had signed up to. And now they want their €3.2m back as a result, which is why club President Josep Maria Bartomeu announced on Spanish radio on Tuesday morning that they would be suing Santos for damages. "They haven't respected the contract we signed, they sort of hid the deal and Barcelona will defend its own interests", he told Catalan station Radio Rac 105. "We have already sent a fax to Santos."
Unfortunately for Santos, the aforementioned violation on their part seems pretty blatant. The above letter shows their rather impudent attempt to condense this period of 72 hours that Barca had paid to have the right to down to about 30 hours, as they claimed Inter's official offer for Gabigol - an offer of €29.5m, according to them - came in too late for the full three days to be realistically granted. They say here that it only reached them on 29 August, but Barca's legal case will no doubt point out that, er, Gabigol flew to Milan to have his Inter medical on the 28th, along with Joao Mario. So something doesn't quite add up there, and Santos are probably going to have to return the money. "Let's just forget that written agreement you paid us money for and do it this way instead" probably isn't going to stand up in court. Barca have not decided yet whether they'll appeal to FIFA, who would welcome such a request with open arms as they haven't got much to do at the moment, or go directly to the Brazilian law courts, but I suspect they might get their way whichever one they complain to.
We could go into even more detail with this story - have you heard that part of the fee we paid to Santos is now owed to former Lazio player Cristian Ledesma?! - but to be honest it doesn't really concern us, so let's just sit back and giggle as the drama unfolds. The only thing that counts for us is that Gabigol is an Inter player and it can't be changed now, no matter how much he might want it to after having seen us play against Palermo. He's ours now, and Messi and co. will just have to deal with it. Oh well!