FIFA president Sepp Blatter may have thought joking about Cristiano Ronaldo was all in good fun, but the Portugal forward and his team, Real Madrid, took offense.
Real asked Blatter on Tuesday to apologize for mocking Ronaldo while praising Barcelona rival Lionel Messi at an event in England.
Blatter complied, trying to downplay an incident that pitted the sport’s most powerful executive with its richest club and one of its biggest stars.
Blatter told an audience at Oxford University that Ronaldo “is like a commander on the field of play” before strutting around the stage to the laughs of the audience.
Real manager Carlo Ancelotti said on Tuesday that club president Florentino Perez had sent a letter to Blatter asking him to “rectify what I consider a lack of respect for a serious and professional player.”
Ronaldo took Blatter’s stinging words and mimicry to heart.
“This video [of Blatter’s comments] shows clearly the respect and consideration that FIFA has for me, for my club and my country,” Ronaldo wrote on Facebook. “Much is explained now. I wish Mr Blatter health and a long life, with the certainty that he will continue to witness, as he deserves, the successes of his favorite teams and players.”
Blatter asked both Ronaldo and his club for forgiveness, sending a letter to Perez.
“I want to clarify that for me Cristiano Ronaldo is at the same level as Messi and that they are both outstanding players, each in their own way,” Blatter wrote.
The head of world soccer’s governing body said he was “sorry that this situation produced in a university event hurt as much and I apologize for it. It was never my intention to embarrass or disrespect to Real Madrid CF, or one of their players or their fans.”
While saying both Ronaldo and Messi are “extraordinary players,” Blatter said at Oxford that he prefers what he sees as Messi’s more subdued personality.
“Messi is a good boy, that every father and every mother would like to have at home,” Blatter said. “They don’t have the same attitude and that gives life to football. One has more expenses for the hairdresser than the other, but that doesn’t matter.”