By Ben Hayward, Goal.com
Cristiano Ronaldo believes FIFA's favoritism for Barcelona and Lionel Messi is undermining his legacy at Real Madrid and fears he will not win the Ballon d'Or again while Sepp Blatter remains in charge of football's governing body.
Both the Blancos and Ronaldo responded furiously on Tuesday at quotes made by Blatter on Friday in which the FIFA chief had expressed a preference for Messi and made fun of the Portuguese and, although the Swiss moved to apologize and play down the controversy, the player feels the remarks are indicative of institutional bias.
Asked about Messi and Ronaldo by students at an Oxford University debate on Friday, Blatter said: "One spends more at the hairdresser’s than the other, but I can’t say who is better. I like them both, but I prefer Messi."
Madrid contacted Blatter to express the club's "repulse" at the 77-year-old's stance, while coach Carlo Ancelotti also defended his player on Tuesday.
"I know that our president has sent a letter to FIFA. This is a lack of respect towards a player who is very serious and very professional. I agree with the president," the Italian said.
Ronaldo responded angrily to the Swiss on Twitter and Facebook, posting a video of the FIFA chief making fun of him. "This video shows the respect and consideration that FIFA has for me, my club and my country. Much is explained now. I wish Mr. Blatter health and a long life, with the certainty that he'll continue to witness the successes of his favorite teams and players."
Blatter later said he was sorry.
"I apologize if you were upset by my light-hearted answer at a private event on Friday," he wrote to Ronaldo on Twitter. And the FIFA boss also sent an open letter to Madrid, claiming he thought that Messi and Cristiano were on the same level.
However, as far as player and club are concerned, the damage is done because the Swiss had already revealed his preferred player: Messi.
"Leo's a good lad, every mother or father would like to have him at home," Blatter has said of the Argentine. And of Ronaldo, he had added: "The other one is a commander on the field of play."
Cristiano was upset last season at what he perceived as a lack of support from the Madrid hierarchy and is happy his club has come to his defense this time around. Nevertheless, he feels frustrated at what he sees as bias towards both Barcelona and Messi as the Argentine looks to win a fifth Ballon d'Or in succession next January.
Both players were nominated in the 23-man short list announced on Tuesday, along with fellow favorite Franck Ribery, but Ronaldo is already convinced he will not claim the prize and doubts he will win it again while Blatter is in charge.
"Those [Blatter] quotes explain the reasons why Cristiano doesn't have more Ballons d'Or," Portuguese great Paulo Futre said on Tuesday. "The trophy is a farce - if I had any doubts before then they are all gone now."
Ronaldo feels he deserved to win the Ballon d'Or last year after leading Madrid to La Liga in 2011-12 and believes the FIFA hierarchy has lobbied for Messi to claim the prestigious prize in recent years. The Portuguese is also concerned that quotes like Blatter's on Friday will serve to tarnish an image he has worked hard to improve over the last few seasons.
Blatter's comments were made on the eve of the Clasico clash between Barca and Madrid on Saturday, when Ronaldo was angered at a penalty call which went against him following a shove by Javier Mascherano in the area. The 28-year-old complained to the referee at the time and after Barca's second strike in the 2-1 win at Camp Nou, but his remarks fell on deaf ears. After the match, teammate Sergio Ramos told reporters: "It's always the same here."
Ramos, like many of Madrid's players and former boss Jose Mourinho, believes Barcelona receives preferential treatment in Clasico clashes both in La Liga and in Europe - particularly at Camp Nou - and Ronaldo was alluding to something similar in his reply to Blatter.
However, the timing of Madrid's response to the Blatter quotes has also allowed the capital club to move away from criticism of its poor performance in the Clasico, pressure on Ancelotti, Florentino Perez and the disappointing displays of summer signing Gareth Bale.
Barcelona, incidentally, also feels it should have been awarded a penalty in the Clasico on Saturday for a Pepe challenge on Cesc Fabregas.
FIFA has published Blatter's letter of apology to Madrid on the club's official website and refused to comment further on Wednesday.