Russian President Vladimir Putin believes FIFA chief Sepp Blatter is innocent of corruption, and even deserves a Nobel Prize.
Putin, whose country will host the 2018 World Cup, met Blatter before the event's preliminary draw on Saturday and said the leader of the football's under-fire world governing body had his respect.
"We all know the situation developing around Mr Blatter right now," Putin said in an interview with Swiss broadcaster RTS. "I don't want to go into details but I don't believe a word about him being involved in corruption personally.
"I think people like Mr Blatter or the heads of big international sporting federations, or the Olympic Games, deserve special recognition. If there is anyone who deserves the Nobel Prize, it's those people."
The Nobel Peace Center announced last month that it would stop working with FIFA on the joint fair-play "Handshake for Peace" initiative after the corruption allegations that rocked world football.
Blatter will step down as FIFA president in February, a decision he made in June following the bribery scandal that has led to the indictments of top FIFA officials. Blatter himself has not been indicted and denies any wrongdoing.
FIFA's awarding of the World Cup to Russia, a country with a history of civil rights violations and which is currently involved in armed conflict with Ukraine, was one of many reasons that the U.S. justice department turned it's gaze toward football.
The scandal put some doubt over whether the World Cup will stay in Russia, and Putin has previously criticised the U.S. for overstepping its bounds.
He hit back at the U.S. again on Monday, implying that the Americans were trying to reopen the voting so they could host an upcoming World Cup instead.
"The way there is this fight against corrpution makes me wonder if it isn't a continuation of the bids for 2018 and 2022," Putin said.