KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Michel Platini will end the guessing games over his ambitions in football’s power game during the European federation executive committee meeting next month.
Ever since FIFA president Sepp Blatter indicated in Zurich in 2011 that this could be his last term in office speculation has surrounded Platini’s status as favourite to step up from the leaderhip of UEFA.
Platini told this writer a year ago that “I would never stand against Blatter” so his own announcement may be seen as an indirect indication of the Swiss 77-year-old’s intentions.
Platini clarified his timetable in an interview with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe. He said: “I have to see if I can convince myself, as before I ran for the presidency of UEFA, whether I want to go to FIFA . . . FIFA is not the same world … I have to convince myself whether this is my destiny even if it is true that I have every right to do it.”
Platini undertook lengthy discussions with Blatter in Switzerland last weekend when he attended the FIFA president’s annual charity sports weekend in his home canton of Valais.
However the former France top scorer, captain and coach denied any handover agreement. Platini said: “He has said that I was his natural candidate but there is no deal between us even if it is true that, today, I have every right to go to FIFA.”
The 58-year-old Frenchman, inevitably, will come under further questioning over his intentions later this week during UEFA’s annual two-day event in Monte Carlo at which the draws for the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League will be undertaken.
The UEFA executive committee will be held in Dubrovnik in three weeks’ time on September 19 and 20.
Platini, born in Joeuf in the south of France, on June 21, 1955, enjoyed a stellar career with local Nancy-Lorraine then Saint-Etienne and Juventus.
He scored a then-record 41 goals in 72 internationals for France whom he captained and inspired to success in the 1984 European Championship finals on home ground. Platini top-scored with nine goals including one in the 2-0 victory over Spain in the final in the Parc des Princes in Paris.
In Italy he was leading scorer three times in a row in Serie A and remains hugely popular.
He was league champion of France once with Saint-Etienne and twice of Italy with Juventus where he also helped the ‘Old Lady’ win the World Club Cup, Champions Cup, Cup-winners Cup and European Supercup. It was a painful and lasting regret that his Champions Cup victory was achieved in the shadow of the notorious Heysel Stadium tragedy in Brussels. Juventus won the final 1-0 with a 56th-minute penalty converted by Platini himself.
At World Cup level Platini led France memorably to the semi-finals in both 1982 and 1986. Each time they lost to West Germany – on the first occasion after a dramatic penalty shootout in Seville (the first shootout in finals history).
Platini won a host of individuals award, including the European Footballer of the Year prize on three occasions (1983, 1984 and 1985).
After retiring Platini had a short spell as TV analyst before becoming national manager of France. He guided them unbeaten to the finals of Euro 1992 in Sweden but stepped down after the French exit in the group stage.
Later Platini was appointed joint president of the French organising committee of the 1998 World Cup. Initially his role was seen as being a public face to the authority but he took more responsibility, impressively, after illness overtook joint president Fernand Sastre.
Platini played a key support role, on the eve of the 1998 World Cup, in Sepp Blatter’s campaign to become FIFA president. After the finals Platini was appointed ‘presidential counsellor’ to Blatter.
His initial task was to create the unified international calendar but, as time went on, Platini grew frustrated at the limitations of his role. Hence he turned sports politician to oust Lennart Johansson as president of UEFA in 2007.
Platini reorganised the UEFA power structure to turn himself into an executive president, after the style of Blatter at FIFA. In this way Platini has focused on ideas while leaving their implementation to his staff headed, notably, by chief executive Gianni Infantino.
The major achievements of Platini at UEFA have been in expanding access for clubs from smaller nations to the Champions League group stage and the implementation of the complex Financial Fair Play regulations.
These developments have been largely welcomed.
More controversial has been Platini’s opposition to goal-line technology and the move not only to 24 teams at the European Championship but the concept of a pan-European finals in 2020.
Platini’s status as UEFA president meant he became, automatically, a vice-president of FIFA. Here he has played a much-discussed role in the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Platini has never made any secret that he voted for Qatar but, within weeks of the award, had launched a personal campaign to have the finals switched to the winter months to avoid the searing summer temperatures.
That issue will be discussed by FIFA’s next executive committee meeting on October 3-4 – by which time Platini’s presidential ambitions will be clear.