Platini gets 4 more years

2011-03-22 14:50

Paris - Having cut a dash across the playing fields of Europe as one of the most talented playmakers of his era, Michel Platini has had almost as striking an impact during his four years as UEFA president.

The 55-year-old Frenchman was on Tuesday re-elected unopposed for a second term at the head of European football's governing body.

Initially elected in 2007, he set about implementing a far-reaching programme of reform that tackled corruption, racism and fan violence, as well as the thorny issues of financial irresponsibility and video technology.

Platini's grandest initiative to date, the 'financial fair play' rules, mean that from the 2014-15 season onwards, teams who do not balance their books will face exclusion from the Champions League.

With European clubs currently indebted to the tune of around 1.2 billion euros ($1.7 billion), Platini's vision of a debt-free future has ruffled plenty of feathers at the Old Continent's glamour clubs.

The former France captain has also presided over the democratisation of the Champions League, creating a 'champions path' to make it easier for national champions from Europe's smaller countries to reach the lucrative group phase.

"We had FC Copenhagen in the last 16 this season. We have the little clubs but also more champions, more real champions," Platini told AFP.

"The fact the little clubs don't have money doesn't mean they don't have the right to play in the Champions League."

A virulent opponent of video technology, Platini has backed the introduction of two extra officials behind each goal and is keen to see the initiative escalated to the next World Cup, in Brazil in 2014.

Even before his assault on the prevailing status quo in the European game, Platini had done enough on the pitch to engrave his name in international football folklore.

Born in 1955, the grandson of Italian immigrants, he made his name at Nancy before joining Saint-Etienne in 1979.

Blessed with magnificent technique, balance and a burning will to win, Platini's calling cards were his eye for a defence-splitting pass and an unerring accuracy from free-kicks.

Three years later he arrived at Italian giants Juventus for a sparkling five-year stint that saw him named European Footballer of the Year for three years in a row between 1983 and 1985.

The swashbuckling heart of France's famous 'Magic Square' midfield -- alongside Alain Giresse, Luis Fernandez and Jean Tigana -- Platini typified the swagger and guile of the great French side of the mid-1980s.

He scored a tournament record nine goals, from midfield, as France won the 1984 European Championship on home soil and was the inspiration as Les Bleus reached the semi-finals at both the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

Retiring with 72 caps and 41 goals to his name, Platini had an ultimately unsuccessful spell as national coach from 1988 to 1992 before redeeming himself by helping to organise the 1998 World Cup, in which hosts France triumphed.

He narrowly squeezed into the UEFA hotseat in January 2007, edging the incumbent Lennart Johansson by 27 votes to 23, and has developed a reputation as an outspoken but doggedly idealistic administrator.

"The weight of responsibility is protecting the game. For me, football is only a game," he says.

"As long as we keep the game, with its passion, we will have won."

Recently tipped by Pele to succeed Sepp Blatter as head of world governing body FIFA, Platini would be the first to respond that his European revolution is not over just yet.