A Spanish court has acquitted Brazilian footballer Neymar in a fraud and corruption trial related to his 2013 transfer from Santos to Barcelona.
The judges decided to acquit the nine defendants who were being prosecuted in this trial, including Barcelona, former club presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, Santos and Neymar's father, the court said in a statement.
Neymar's high-profile trial got under way in mid-October in Barcelona, just a month before the start of the World Cup in Qatar where the 30-year-old – who is now at French champions Paris Saint-Germain – and Brazil crashed out after a penalty shoot-out against Croatia in the quarter finals.
Prosecutors had initially sought a two-year jail term and a €10 million ($10.5 million) fine for Neymar but in a surprise move they dropped corruption and fraud charges against all the accused. In October, prosecutor Luis Garcia Canton asked the Barcelona court to acquit all defendants as there was “not the slightest hint of a crime”.
Brazilian sports investment firm DIS, which owned 40 per cent of Neymar's sporting rights when he was at Santos, filed a lawsuit in 2015 alleging it had been defrauded during the player's transfer to Barcelona.
It claimed Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of his transfer thereby cheating it of its proper share of the player's transfer.
DIS also argued that it was not informed of the existence of an exclusivity contract in 2011 between Neymar and Barcelona.
But Spanish prosecutors, which initially shared DIS' view, later said the firm's allegations were not based on “evidence”.
They concluded the case was a matter for civil rather than criminal justice.
Even though prosecutors dropped their charges the case continued because the court was also considering a separate indictment filed by DIS as it is allowed by Spanish law.
DIS was seeking to recover €35 million it claims it was cheated out of.
The court verdict will give a glimmer of relief to Neymar who hinted that he might quit international football after the Croatia defeat.
"I am not closing any doors on the national team but I am also not guaranteeing 100 per cent that I will return," said Neymar, who equalled Pele's record tally of 77 goals for Brazil with a brilliant strike.
"I need to think a bit more about this, about what is the right thing for me and for the national team.
"It is an awful feeling, I think this is a worse feeling than what happened at the last World Cup. It is difficult to find the words to describe this moment."