John Terry has been cleared of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand following a week long trial in London in which he said he was hurt by the accusation.
The Chelsea defender was accused of calling the QPR centre-half a “f****** black c***” during a Premier League match on October 23 last year.
John Terry not guilty: latest news and reaction
But Terry always denied the offence claiming he was sarcastically repeating a slur that Ferdinand mistakenly thought he had used.
The prosecution claimed Terry had used “straightforward racial abuse” and that it was unlikely that Ferdinand would have had the “motivation or frankly the sophistication” in the heat of the moment to make up the allegation.
But George Carter-Stephenson QC, for Terry, told the court that the prosecution case was based on “speculation”.
He said: “This is not a case about racism. The prosecution in cross-examination conceded that he is not a racist. There is an abundance of evidence in this case to prove that fact.
“The way that this case is put is that, on this occasion, Mr Terry completely lost his cool and made an inappropriate remark making reference to a physical characteristic of Mr Ferdinand, namely his colour, in response to words conceded to have been repeated taunts and insults referring to his alleged affair with Mr (Wayne) Bridge’s partner.”
He told the court there was no direct evidence about what Terry had said, other than the Chelsea defender’s own account.
Mr Carter-Stephenson said Ferdinand was “inconsistent and unreliable both on words and events and could not satisfy the court to the criminal standard”.
Terry had only been sent off four times in 600 top flight games, and never in relation to his use of language, the court heard.
Terry avoided a maximum fine of £2,500 but he may yet face a fresh fight to clear his name in football with The Football Association.
Football’s disciplinary processes require a different burden of proof — football convictions can be issued on the balance of probabilities — and Terry will now have to repeat his arguments to an independent disciplinary commission.
Terry had already been stripped of the England captaincy for Euro 2012 ahead of the trial.
It was a matter over which Fabio Capello quit the England manager’s role, although the FA stated it had been unavoidable due to “the higher-profile nature of the England captaincy, on and off the pitch, and the additional demands and requirements expected of the captain leading into and during a tournament.”
The incident occurred in a Premier League game at Loftus Road between Chelsea and Queen’s Park Rangers, making any suspension he would receive from the FA in the event it finds him guilty a domestic matter only.
However Telegraph Sport can reveal that if an FA inquiry finds against him it could also lead to Terry being banned from his club’s defence of the Champions League.
A Uefa spokesman told Telegraph Sport: “The match in question did not take place under our jurisdiction so we cannot open disciplinary proceedings. But what could happen is for the FA where the offence has occurred to request Fifa to extend the ban internationally so as to apply for all competitions.”
Chelsea, though, are expected to stand by their captain. Both his club and the FA are expected to release statements later today.