KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- The five candidates chasing the presidency of world football federation FIFA will hold a private summit meeting on February 17 and 18 according to Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

The official news agency TASS quoted Mutko as offering this insight into the run-up to the election on February 26 to choose a successor to banned Sepp Blatter.

Vitaly Mutko . . . influential opinion

Mutko, in addition to his governmental role, is a member of the FIFA executive committee and head of the Russian local organising body for the 2018 World Cup finals.

He has come out in support of the candidacy of Gianni Infantino, the general secretary of European federatio UEFA and who is competing in the election against Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne and Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Confederation.

Mutko said: “Today I received a phone call from Sheikh Salman and we discussed this issue. If there was a single candidate from Asia and Europe we would have all backed him up and had more chances.

“We also spoke about February 17-18, when the candidates will meet each other again. A real situation concerning the support will be laid out on the table. The candidates will speak out so we will have a real situation on the preparations for the election.”

Mutko discussed the election with Infantino after the UEFA official arrived to attend the official ceremony to unveil the Emblem for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

The Minister added: “Today we reiterated support for Infantino on behalf of the Russian football authorities. We agree with the most of European countries and believe that Infantino is our candidate for FIFA presidency.”

Infantino’s camp believes he may already have around 60 committed votes towards the ‘simple majority’ of 105 that he would need to win the election against Sheikh Salman who had been the initial front-runner.