NYON: Michel Platini, French president of European federation, has welcomed Sepp Blatter’s decision to stand down as leader of world governing body FIFA writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Platini, who will now be thinking seriously about whether to stand to be Blatter’s successor at the forthcoming extraordinary congress, had tried in vain to persuade the 79-year-old Swiss to stand down before last Friday’s re-elective vote at congress.

In response to Blatter’s statement of impending departure, Platini said: “It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision.”

Platini had always insisted that he would never run for the presidency against Blatter who brought him into FIFA in the first place back in 1998. This led to the odd situation over the past year of Platini demanding Blatter’s departure but refusing to launch a campaign of his own.

In the end UEFA could find only two weak candidates of their own in Dutch federation president Michael Van Praag and Portugal’s former World Player of the Year Luis Figo. Both pulled out of the race before last Friday’s election congress leaving Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein as the only challenger to Blatter.

On the eve of the election Platini revealed how he had attempted, after a meeting of the FIFA emergency committee, one last-minute attempt to persuade Blatter to withdraw.

Platini said: “After the meeting we discussed this between the two of us in his office and I repeated that he should step down. Times were tough and he needed to have the stature to recognise the situation.

“Then he said to me: ‘I like you but it’s too late. I can’t leave now when congress starts only this evening.’”

Platini described Blatter as having been moved by the advice he felt he could not take.

Friendly advice

He added: “It’s not easy to tell a friend he should leave. Sepp did some great things and other things that were less glowing.

“In his first years, when he still had the notion of being general secretary, he was very good at managing FIFA and those were his best years.

“I have an affection for Mr Blatter and supported him for a long time but we cannot support him any more.

“It’s a quality of friends to be able to speak to each other about realities. I am a younger friend for him and he always says he was an uncle for me or something like that. So I felt that if I didn’t tell him, then nobody would.

“Many times in the my past in France I had to say to some people that it’s time we stopped. I hope that my friends will tell me when it’s time to go away and I hope I will follow their advice.

“Mr Blatter is going through some hard times. All the press is against him. The press in his own country is against him so this is not good for all the people close to him.”

Blatter, having refused Platini’s suggestion, has clearly had second thoughts – for whatever reason.