Sandro Rosell quit as Barcelona president a day after a judge said he would look into an allegation he appropriated funds in Brazilian player Neymar’s move to the Spanish soccer champion.
Rosell, a former Nike Inc. (NKE:US) marketing executive who led the team since 2010, told a news conference the claim by a club member, Jordi Cases, was an “unfair and reckless accusation of misappropriation” but he was stepping down to avoid damaging the team. Vice President Josep Maria Bartomeu will take over from him, Rosell said.
“In all of these years we have seen that our successes are the result of our victories on the pitch and overcoming innumerable obstacles off the pitch: political, external and, what’s worse, at times the pressure has come from our own environment,” Rosell said in a statement on the club’s website.
The court case could stain one of the most successful spells in Barcelona’s history: led by four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi, the team won Europe’s Champions League in 2011, its third success in six years.
Pablo Ruz, a judge at Spain’s National Court, said in a written ruling yesterday he would open an official investigation into Rosell’s role in the transfer.
The complaint was filed by Cases last month.
Barcelona said it spent 57 million euros ($78 million) to hire Neymar last June, with 40 million euros of that going to N&N Consultoria Esportiva e Empresarial Ltd. The company is owned by Neymar’s parents, according to a company registry filing in Sao Paulo.
Rosell said on Jan. 20 that the trade “was all perfectly above board and completely legal.”
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