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Barcelona president Sandro Rosell resigns amid Neymar row

By Chris Murphy, CNN
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barcelona president Sandro Rosell announces his resignation Thursday
  • Rosell quits after Spanish judge agreed to hear case surrounding Neymar transfer
  • Outgoing president insists the deal was correct and calls accusations "reckless"
  • Rosell replaced as president by Josep Maria Bartomeu until elections in 2016

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(CNN) -- Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has quit in the wake of a Spanish judge's decision to investigate the deal that brought Brazilian superstar Neymar to the club.

Rosell announced at a press conference Thursday he was tendering his "irrevocable resignation" after three-and-a-half years in charge of the current Spanish champions.

On Wednesday a judge agreed to hear a case centered on the $78 million transfer of Neymar from Santos in June after a complaint from one of Barcelona's own members.

Rosell vigorously asserted his innocence in front a packed media conference and described the allegations as "unfair and reckless."

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He will be replaced by vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu who said the current board would continue until the end of their mandate in 2016.

"In recent days an unfair and reckless accusation of misappropriation has resulted in a lawsuit against me in the National Court," he told reporters -- a statement that was later reproduced on Barcelona's official website.

"From the beginning I have said that the signing of Neymar Junior has been correct and his signing has caused despair and envy in some of our adversaries."

"The Board of Directors is a team. And this team leads a project that has brought the Club great success. I don't want unfair attacks to negatively affect their management or the image of the club.

"This is why I think my time here has come to an end.

"Now, in accordance with the Club's Statutes, I have presented my irrevocable resignation of the presidency of FC Barcelona to the Board of Directors.

"From this moment, the first vice-president of the club, Josep Maria Bartomeu, will immediately assume the presidency of the club until the end of the term, through 2016, just as the Board unanimously agreed a few moments ago."

Rosell took over as president in 2010 after succeeding Joan Laporta. During his time in charge the club won the La Liga title twice and also secured the 2011 European Champions League crown.

He attracted criticism in some quarters for a huge sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation that saw the club bear a sponsor's name on their shirts for the first time.

After they signed Neymar from Santos, the club announced the deal was worth $78 million, but the breakdown of the agreement was never revealed.

From the beginning I have said the signing of Neymar has been correct and his signing has caused despair and envy in some of our adversaries
Sandro Rosell, former Barcelona president

A Barcelona member launched a case against Rosell for not disclosing the full details and the club was asked by Spanish authorities to hand over documentation, as well as accounts for the past three years.

On Wednesday judge Pablo Ruz decided an investigation should go ahead, leading to Thursday's dramatic press conference.

Rosell touched on the success Barca had enjoyed during his reign but said it had brought "very difficult moments."

"For some time my family and myself have suffered threats and attacks in silence," he said. "These threats and attacks have made me wonder if being president means having to jeopardize my family.

"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.

"It has been an honor to serve the Barcelonistas. It's been a privilege to be the president of FC Barcelona. I wish the best to the new president and I ask the club members to support him."

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