Brazilian sensation Neymar could face up to six years in prison as courts re-examine his move from boyhood club Santos to Barcelona.
Last year, former Barcelona superstar Neymar was ordered to stand trial by the Spanish court for fraud regarding his transfer to the Nou Camp.
The Brazilian made the switch to Catalonia in 2013 after four years after progressing through the ranks as a youngster.
Reports from Spain now suggest the national court has decided at the last minute to refer to the Criminal Chamber in front of three magistrates.
Sources said that the judge Jose Maria Vazquez Honrubia will pass the case on to a higher judicial body due to the crimes that are alleged to have taken place.
Brazilian investment company, the DIS Esporte group, which had been a long-term strategic partner of the Santos football club, have made an accusation of ‘continued deception’ that can carry a longer prison sentence than the five years which is the maximum power that Vazquez Honrubia’s court holds.
The fact that three judges will sit on the case means sentences can be extended past five years as they are deemed as more serious.
Barcelona newspaper Lavanguardia report they have had access to a ruling which reveals that if found guilty, the sentence could be anything from four to six years.
But the move to next chamber of the Spanish court will delay the start of the case.
The move has been the subject of an investigation since January 2014, with Barcelona and president Josep Maria Bartomeu being charged with tax fraud.
Bartomeu’s final appeal was rejected last year and he must also stand trial over the transfer.
Barca originally claimed they paid €17.1million for the Brazil captain, but a complaint made from a club member prompted a legal case.
That revealed the club had agreed to pay him €40million in wages, leading to an out-of- court settlement and the resignation of then-president Sandro Rosell.
However, Rosell’s successor, Bartomeu, revealed Los Cules had actually paid €86.2million.
That led to DIS bringing the case, claiming it is due a 40 per cent cut of the fee that Barcelona paid to sign Neymar.
DIS say they have not received the full figure given the uncertainty surrounding the final figure.
Part of Neymar’s defence is that this a case for the Brazilian legal system — not Spain.
Neymar, meanwhile, has said that his former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi is his “idol” and described Cristiano Ronaldo as a footballing “monster”.
“Messi is, for me, one of the greatest footballers of all time, and he is my idol in football,” Neymar said.
“With Messi, I learnt every day, whether during our practice or playing with him, or just watching him play. And that made me stronger and it increased my capacity on the field because I kept learning a lot from him”.