FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Friday he was misquoted in media reports citing him as calling Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo a “slave.”
Blatter last month called on the English club to release the Portuguese player if he wanted to join Real Madrid, rather than hold him against his will.
“I have never said that Ronaldo is a slave,” Blatter said during a Vietnam visit, where he was inaugurating part of a youth football training ground.
“What I said is slavery is with the young people — youngsters that European clubs are trying to get, 13, 14 and 15 year old young boys — and bring them to the big clubs. This is my expression, this is modern slavery.
“I have never mentioned that for Ronaldo. But the press … they have distorted it. Ronaldo is not a slave.”
He added that FIFA would not play a role in any dispute over Ronaldo.
“Let them work in peace now,” Blatter said. “Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United and Real Madrid, they can solve this problem. For the time being, we have nothing to say.”
Blatter also again stressed that clubs should release under-23 footballers to play in the Olympics, in line with FIFA rules.
“This principle has been made by the FIFA congress in the year 1988,” he said. “It has worked for 20 years and nobody has ever put into question that the player under 23 shall be released.”
“Now we have problems with two clubs in Germany and one in Spain, but you have seen that the two Brazilian players — Rafinha and Diego — they will play tonight here, they are with their team.”
Vietnam and Brazil were later to play a friendly in Hanoi.
“We are confident that finally the clubs they will understand that it is right for these players to go to the Olympic Games,” Blatter said. “It is not only a question of solidarity. It’s also a question of right.”
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