FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he had been misquoted in likening Portugal and Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo to a slave, but said there is modern slavery in football.
"I have never said that Ronaldo is a slave," Blatter told reporters Friday on a visit to Vietnam. "But I said slavery with young people, youngsters that European clubs are trying to get 13, 14 and 15 years old boys and bring them to the big clubs. This is in my expression, this is modern slavery." he said "I have never mentioned that for Ronaldo."
"But the press ... they have distorted it.
"Ronaldo is not a slave."
In an interview last month, Blatter called on Manchester United to release Cristiano Ronaldo if the prized winger asks to join Real Madrid, saying it was not right to hold him against his will even if he was under contract to the English club.
"We should also protect the player and if the player wants to play somewhere else, then a solution should be found," Blatter said in that interview. "Because if he stays in a club where he does not feel comfortable to play then it's not good for the player and for the club ... I'm always in favor to protect the player and if the player, he wants to leave, let him leave."
Blatter then added that "in football there is too much modern slavery."
Those comments sparked widespread criticism, particularly from Manchester United, which continues to insist Ronaldo will not be sold despite ongoing speculation he will move to the Spanish champion.
Blatter said Wednesday that Ronaldo and the two clubs can find a solution.
"They will solve this problem," he said "We have nothing to say, FIFA is not going to intervene, let it be as it is now."
Blatter was on a one-day trip to Vietnam to inaugurate the first phase of a FIFA-funded center to train young talented footballers.