Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he will attend the World Cup as a guest of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The Swiss was in charge of football’s global governing body at the time Russia was awarded the tournament in December 2010, before his reign ended amid a corruption scandal involving FIFA.
He was suspended in December 2015 for eight years, later reduced to six, after an investigation carried out by FIFA’s ethics committee.
It brought an end to his reign as president after 17 years in charge, but Blatter, who repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, looks set to make an appearance during Russia 2018.
He told the New York Times: “I will be in Moscow first, and it will be very nice. I will stay in Moscow.”
The 82-year-old added that he would meet Putin during his trip.
He said: “I am his guest. We will meet somewhere, but I don’t know where yet because they refuse to disclose the exact location. It will be a sporting and diplomatic mission for me.”
In 2015, Putin said Blatter deserved a Nobel Prize for his stewardship of soccer’s governing body and that he was sure Blatter was not personally involved in corrupt activity.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in October both Blatter and ex-UEFA head Michel Platini, who was also suspended following an ethics investigation, would be welcome at the World Cup as “old friends” of the Russian president.