Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema have been freed from accusations that claimed they paid for sex with an underage prostitute, according to Rob Harris of The Associated Press:
Just in from Paris ... France internationals Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema acquitted on charges of soliciting underage prostitute— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) January 30, 2014
The French pair, who reportedly met up with Zahia Dehar on separate occasions, have beaten claims that could have landed them with a three-year jail sentence.
As reported by The Associated Press and via The State, this potentially career-ending case came to a close as the judge decided there is a lack of evidence against both players:
"The French judge ruled there wasn't enough proof the men were aware that self-described escort Zahia Dehar, now 21, was a minor at the time," read the official release.
Prosecutor Jean-Julien Xavier-Rolai had previously suggested the duo would be acquitted, per Reuters and via Yahoo! Eurosport:
"It is impossible for the accusation to prove that Franck Ribery was aware," said Xavier-Rolai.
Ribery confessed he had sex with Dehar, but claims he didn't know her age, as reported by Ian Holyman of ESPN FC. The Bayern Munich star has confirmed he flew Dehar out to Germany in 2009, but claimed he only paid for her food, accommodation and travel.
Benzema, who reportedly met Dehar in 2008 after the Union of Professional Footballers' awards, denied ever paying for sex, as confirmed in Holyman's report.
Both players can now prioritise the remainder of their club seasons, while also looking ahead to the World Cup in Brazil.
Ribery, who helped capture a quintet of trophies during 2013 with Bayern, recently finished third in FIFA's voting for the 2013 Ballon d'Or. Bayern currently sit 13 points clear of Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, suggesting further silverware is imminent.
Benzema is battling hard for the Spanish title at Real Madrid. Los Blancos are one point behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the top of La Liga, as Carlo Ancelotti looks to restore the Bernabeu's power with a title win in his first season.
Both players had a major role in France's ascension to the World Cup and will be looking forward to the festivities after overturning a 2-0 deficit against Ukraine in November's playoff, per FIFA.com.
Benzema netted the equaliser in front of a joyous home crowd during the second-leg, while Ribery's constant probing set the tempo for Didier Deschamps' side.
Now the case is over, both will be itching to focus on football.