Nyon - Formerly one of the world's greatest players and currently the most
important man in European football, Michel Platini is now targeting the top job
in the game after confirming he would stand to become FIFA president.
The Frenchman, a grandson of Italian immigrants, turned 60 earlier this
year, and having conquered Europe as a player and then become UEFA chief in
2007, he is now prepared to take on the huge task of transforming scandal-hit
FIFA's damaged reputation.
Platini must now be considered the favourite to win the elections to replace
Sepp Blatter, which will be held on February 26, 2016.
If he does win, it will be down to him to oversee the widespread reforms
that he himself has called so loudly for. And it will be down to him to clean
up and pacify an organisation that is going through the worst crisis in its
For a time, Platini was probably the greatest player in the world and won
the Ballon d'Or in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
After winning the French Cup with Nancy and a league title with
Saint-Etienne, he was lured to Juventus in 1982 and it was while with the
Italian giants that he became a major international star.
The gifted playmaker won two Serie A titles with the Turin side and a
European Cup in 1985, although that triumph was overshadowed by the events off the
field that night at the Heysel Stadium, when 39 fans were killed in crush
before the game against Liverpool in Brussels.
"That final remains in my memory, as it remains in the memory of all
those who were there, those who lost a loved one, those for whom everything
changed in a few terrible minutes," he says of that night.
His crowning moment as a player came a year before Heysel, when he was the
outstanding player and scored nine goals for the France team that won the
European Championship on home soil.
The World Cup, in contrast, proved to be just beyond him, with Les Bleus
losing in the semi-finals in 1982 and 1986.
As a young coach, his France team failed even to qualify for the 1990 World
Cup and then bowed out of Euro 92 at the group stage.
Instead, Platini has concentrated on becoming a leading administrator since
performing the role as co-president of the organising committee of the 1998
World Cup in France.
He gave his support to Blatter when the Swiss won that year's FIFA
presidential elections, before working as vice-president of the French Football
Federation in 2001 and then taking charge of UEFA in 2007.
The man who has overseen the expansion of the European Championship - next
year's finals in his native France will feature 24 teams for the first time -
is confident of succeeding Blatter having opted not to stand against the
veteran Swiss in May's election.
He can expect widespread backing, but Platini will also face some
uncomfortable questions, not least for his decision to support Qatar's bid to
host the 2022 World Cup.
FIFA's controversial decision to give the Gulf state the finals despite
major concerns about the climate in the Middle East sparked the crisis within
the organisation that continues today.
Platini was quick to admit that he voted for Qatar, apparently in an attempt
to show that his horizons were not limited to Europe. That revelation led to
suspicions that he may have been corrupted.
"I'm transparent, I am the only one who revealed who I voted for and
did so by my own initiative," he told French sports daily L'Equipe in
"I have no regrets at all. I think it was the right choice for FIFA and
world football," he added of his vote for Qatar.
Platini has denied he was influenced to vote for Qatar by former French
president Nicolas Sarkozy, but the fact that his son Laurent works for a
Qatar-owned sports clothing company has also raised suspicions.
He also courted controversy over his refusal to hand back a watch worth more
than $25 000 that was gifted to him by the Brazilian Football Confederation at
last year's World Cup.
"I'm a well-educated person. I don't return gifts," said Platini,
despite FIFA's call for the watches to be returned for a breach of their code