BARCELONA, Spain -- The president of Spanish champion Barcelona resigned on Thursday to fight criminal accusations he misappropriated funds from the signing of Brazilian forward Neymar.
Sandro Rosell is facing a legal battle after a judge in Madrid ruled Wednesday he will hear a lawsuit alleging the real cost of Neymar’s transfer from Santos last year was hidden.
"My time at the club has come to an end," Rosell said, while insisting for a second time this week that the deal to bring Neymar to Barcelona was legal.
Neymar, the top star on Brazil’s World Cup team, was acquired in June for 57 million euros (then $74 million), according to Rosell. The legal case claims that the real cost of Neymar’s transfer was closer to 95 million euros ($129 million).
The 49-year-old Rosell, a former Nike executive, said confidentiality agreements prevented Barcelona from revealing the exact amount received by Santos and the three companies -- DIS, TEISA and N&N -- who owned shares of Neymar’s rights. The lawsuit does not accuse Rosell of taking money from the deal.
The case prompted Barcelona’s board to call an emergency meeting, and Rosell announced after more than two hours of deliberations that he was quitting
Barcelona, a Catalan institution whose motto is "more than a club," is owned by its more than 160,000 members, who elect a president and executive board.
Rosell, elected in 2010, said vice president Josep Bartomeu will take his place and complete the presidential term that expires in 2016.
"Through this period of success, my family and I have suffered attacks that have made me wonder if being president means putting my family at risk an in anguish," Rosell said.
Last March, Rosell was also accused in Brazil of illegally benefiting from an exhibition game organized by his marketing company in 2008.
Barcelona leads the Spanish league on goal difference over Atletico Madrid and hopes to regain the Champions League title it last won in 2011.