LONDON -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter has spoken to three countries about hosting the 2010 World Cup if a natural catastrophe forces it away from South Africa.
It forms the Plan B drawn up by FIFA with less than two years until soccer's most important tournament heads to Africa for the first time.
Concerns are mounting about South Africa fulfilling its hosting obligations after Tuesday's announcement that the Port Elizabeth stadium is unlikely to be completed in time for next June's Confederations Cup tuneup event.
The World Cup preparations have been plagued by stadium construction delays, security fears, transport problems and the possibility of power outages.
"I have spoken to three possible, not only possible, but three associations and countries that would be able to stage the World Cup in one year's time," Blatter said in an interview broadcast on Thursday by Sky News. "They need one year [to prepare]."
Blatter would not name the countries when asked if 1966 host England was one of his options.
Also in the interview, Blatter called on Manchester United to release Cristiano Ronaldo if the prized winger asks to join Real Madrid.
While Ronaldo has continued to speak of his desire to join the Spanish champion, the Glazer family that owns Manchester United has repeatedly insisted that Ronaldo will not be sold at any price.
"We should also protect the player and if the player wants to play somewhere else, then a solution should be found," Blatter said. "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 risked enraging United manager Alex Ferguson by likening the situation to slavery -- the same analogy that prompted the Scot to publicly rebuke Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon in May.
"I think in football, there's too much modern slavery, in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere," Blatter said. "We are trying now to intervene in such cases ... the reaction to the Bosman law is to make long-lasting contacts to keep the players and then if he wants to leave, then there is only one solution, he has to pay his contract."
A 1995 ruling involving Belgian soccer player Jean-Marc Bosman allows players to move clubs freely once their contract expired.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press