Nyon - Gianni Infantino made his name as
UEFA's master of ceremonies until scandal forced his boss Michel Platini out of
the race for the FIFA presidency.
The shaven-headed Swiss-Italian lawyer is
in a close fight with Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa and three other
candidates for the leadership of world football to be decided on Friday.
Since becoming UEFA general secretary in
2009, the 45-year-old Infantino has become best known to the football public as
the man who takes out the lottery balls when the draw is made for the Champions
Behind the scenes he has also played a key
role in giving the European confederation the financial power to rival FIFA.
He is very much a behind-the-scenes figure
much valued by Europe's leading clubs who battle for Champions League honours
and riches each season.
Infantino was born in Brigue, less than 10 kilometres
from Viege the home village of Sepp Blatter, the man he now wants to replace at
But his rise would not have come without
Platini's downfall over a suspect $2 million payment that Blatter approved to
the Frenchman in 2011. Platini is currently appealing against an eight year ban
imposed by FIFA.
Infantino had said he would stand aside if
his boss won an appeal. But now he is the the main rival to Sheikh Salman for
the FIFA top post.
"I am not looking for power," he
told the Swiss newspaper Le Matin at the weekend. "A few months ago, I was
not even thinking about launching into this adventure.
"But football is going through a
difficult period and some people now have to take their responsibility."
Infantino is multilingual, speaking
English, German, French, Spanish and Italian. He is also a workaholic trusted
by the big clubs who were Platini's major backers.
Infantino is "someone that Platini
could trust to reform and improve UEFA's administration", said a
representative of a major club, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Platini camp is now annoyed by the
ambitions of the Frenchman's former right-hand man who has come out of the
shadows with an ambitious plan for FIFA.
Infantino has proposed increasing the
32-team World Cup to 40 countries. FIFA should consider allowing two or more
countries to host the event, he said.
Infantino also wants to give $5 million
every four years to each member association and $40 million to each of the six
"He was named as a manager, but he
knows how to do politics," said one member of Platini's entourage.
Infantino has Swiss and Italian nationality
and is an Inter Milan supporter.
Former secretary general of the International
Centre for Sports Studies at the University of Neuchatel, Infantino joined UEFA
in 2000 to take charge of its legal and commercial affairs and gradually rose
through the ranks.
According to his UEFA CV, Infantino handled
contacts with the European Union and governments as well as clubs.
He helped create UEFA's financial fair play
rules that have aimed to rein in profligate clubs by stopping them spending
more than they earn.
Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, Jerome
Champagne, a former FIFA deputy secretary general from France and South African
tycoon Tokyo Sexwale are also in the election.