- Sepp Blatter apologizes after impersonating Cristiano Ronaldo at a student address
- FIFA president had been asked to choose between Ronaldo and his rival Lionel Messi
- Ronaldo's club Real Madrid protests and questions Blatter's impartiality ahead of awards
- Messi and Ronaldo among 23 candidates for FIFA's 2013 Ballon d'Or world player of year
Once again, the head of world soccer has put his foot in his mouth.
Sepp Blatter, the man who infamously said that racism on the pitch could be settled by a handshake, has been forced to apologize to Cristiano Ronaldo after apparently mocking the Real Madrid and Portugal star.
When asked at a question and answer session at an English university last Friday if he preferred Ronaldo or his rival Lionel Messi, the FIFA president at first said he could not decide.
However, after extolling the virtues of Barcelona's "good boy" Messi, he stood up and gave the audience at Oxford a bizarre impersonation of Ronaldo, calling him "a commander on the field of play" and then claimed he spent "a lot more at the hairdresser's."
Blatter concluded: "I like both of them, but I prefer Messi."
Ronaldo, who was named Tuesday with Messi among 23 candidates for FIFA's 2013 Ballon d'Or world player of the year award, posted a response on social media along with a link to footage of Blatter's performance.
"This video shows the respect and consideration that FIFA has for me, my club and my country. Much is explained now," Ronaldo wrote to his 22.2 million Twitter followers and 64 million "likers" on Facebook.
"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."
Ronaldo won the 2008 world player of the year title for his exploits at Manchester United, but has seen Messi claim it every year since his world-record $130 million transfer to Spain.
He has been runner-up four times, and was particularly aggrieved to miss out after helping Real end Barca's La Liga reign in the 2011-12 season.
Blatter's antics brought condemnation from Real, whose coach Carlo Ancelotti said it was "disrespectful."
"He shows every day that he is a great player and he respects everyone," the Italian said of Ronaldo, who has scored more than 200 goals in just over four seasons at Real .
Madrid president Florentino Perez, who signed Ronaldo, wrote a letter to FIFA complaining about the player's treatment by a man who is a "socio" (honorary member) of the club -- which represented Spain as one of the ruling body's founder members back in 1904.
"It that has been a huge disappointment among the Madridista family, especially since these unfortunate and unacceptable manifestations come from the president of world football's governing body," Perez wrote.
"On the one hand, they are unfair to a football player who has millions of fans around the world. This is without doubt one of the best players of all time. He embodies the values of sport in a society certainly in need of these kind of examples.
"Finally, we understand that your comments may influence the votes of those who have to decide on who should receive the award."
Blatter wrote to Ronaldo via Twitter, saying: "I apologize if you were upset by my light-hearted answer at private event on Friday. I never meant to offend you."
He also sent a reply to Real, which the club published on its website.
"In response to a question about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the moderator asked me to choose between one of the two and, in this moment having commented that Messi is the type of son all mothers would like to have, I ended up saying his name," Blatter explained.
"However, I want to make it clear that for me Cristiano Ronaldo is at the same level as Messi and that they are both exceptional players, each one in their own way.
"It was never my intention to upset or show a lack of respect towards Real Madrid, one of their players or their fans."
Meanwhile, Barcelona moved four points clear in Spain with a 3-0 win at Celta Vigo on Tuesday.
Messi was not able to add to his eight La Liga goals this season, leaving him joint second with Ronaldo, but he helped set up Cesc Fabregas' second goal.
Fabregas had earlier curled in off the bar to make it 2-0, while his blocked shot allowed Alexis Sanchez to net an early opener.
Espanyol moved up to eighth despite being held 0-0 at home by struggling Sevilla.
Real will host Sevilla on Wednesday and second-placed city rival Atletico Madrid will travel to Granada Thursday.
In Italy, fourth-placed Inter Milan failed to close the gap significantly on the Serie A leaders after being held 1-1 at Atalanta.
It left Walter Mazzari's team eight points adrift of top side Roma, which hosts Chievo on Thursday.
In England, Chelsea knocked Premier League leader Arsenal out of the League Cup with a 2-0 win in north London.
Fullback Cesar Azpilicueta took advantage of a defensive mixup to net the first-half opener and fellow Spaniard Juan Mata doubled the lead in the second spell with a superb right-foot shot.
Manchester United reached the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win over EPL struggler Norwich, as Mexico striker Javier Hernandez scored twice, but Fulham's poor season continued with a 4-3 defeat at second division Leicester.
Birmingham also scored four against Premier League Stoke, but lost out 4-2 on penalties following extra time, while West Ham won 2-0 at second division leader Burnley.