Paris - Michel Platini's damaged bid to become FIFA president was boosted on Thursday when it emerged one of his main rivals could step aside if the Frenchman was cleared to run in the election.
European football boss Platini's ambition to succeed his one-time friend turned arch enemy Sepp Blatter is currently on hold as he serves a 90-day suspension.
The ban was imposed over a "disloyal" $2 million payment Platini received from Blatter on behalf of FIFA in 2011 for consultancy work carried out years before.
But the UEFA chief's presidential chances improved with the news that Asian football head Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa could withdraw from the FIFA contest should Platini emerge unscathed from the investigation.
That exit strategy was raised by FIFA executive committee member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah in an interview with Olympic watchdog website insidethegames.biz.
Sheikh Ahmed, a prominent International Olympic Committee member who is close to Sheikh Salman, said: "I was a supporter for Michel, I still am a supporter for Michel.
"I fully know that he's innocent but I don't know the system that will happen.
"He paid all the tax for this (the payment) and is not hiding something, but the mechanism is creating a problem.
"If he has the right to run we will support him.
"From the beginning the will was with Michel as the successor of the house."
And when asked if Sheikh Salman would pull out of the race rather than stand against Platini, he replied: "I think so.
"I believe a lot of the candidates would withdraw."
Aside from Sheikh Salman and Platini the other contenders in the February 26 election are Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Liberia's Musa Bility, Jerome Champagne of France, Switzerland's Gianni Infantino, and South African Tokyo Sexwale.
Sheikh Ahmed's intervention came just hours after Platini had made an impassioned defence of his suitability to become the next head of FIFA.
"In all modesty, I am the best-placed to lead world football," the 60-year-old former Juventus and France star told Swiss daily Le Matin.
"I am the only one to have a broad vision for football," the UEFA president added.
He is adamant he will be cleared by the ongoing investigation.
"I was always assured that the payment (from FIFA to himself) had followed the rules of internal compliance."
His suspension is due to expire on January 5, although FIFA's Ethics Committee have the power to extend the suspension by a further 45 days, which would deal a fatal blow to his hopes of occupying the FIFA throne.