A judge has recommended that the civil sexual assault case made against Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo in the United States is thrown out of court.
It is claimed the 36-year-old assaulted a woman at a Las Vegas hotel in 2009.
Prosecutors opted not to bring a criminal case against Ronaldo in 2019, saying the claims could “not be proven beyond reasonable doubt”.
A civil case followed with the woman claiming damages. Ronaldo has always denied any wrong-doing.
Magistrate judge Daniel Albregts, who has reviewed the case before a separate judge makes a final decision, says evidence based on leaked communications between Ronaldo and his legal team from the Football Leaks data drop should not have been used in the case.
“Dismissing [the] case for the inappropriate conduct of her attorney is a harsh result,” Albregts wrote.
But “if the court does not grant case-terminating sanctions, [her lawyer’s] actions could have far-reaching, dangerous consequences on the legitimacy of the judicial process”.
Ronaldo’s lawyer Peter Christiansen welcomed the recommendation.
“We are pleased with the court’s detailed review of this matter and its willingness to justly apply the law to the facts and recommend dismissal of the civil case against Mr Ronaldo,” he said.
Lawyers for the woman involved, who have said she was not “legally competent” when she reached a non-disclosure settlement with Ronaldo over the claims in 2010, did not respond to a request for comment.