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Platini’s tactical genius goes wrong

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Michel Platini had been favourite to take over as FIFA president in a February election, but the UEFA leader is suspended because of the Swiss investigation. PHOTO/AFP

Michel Platini had been favourite to take over as FIFA president in a February election, but the UEFA leader is suspended because of the Swiss investigation. PHOTO/AFP

PARIS, December 21- Making the right pass at a crucial moment made Michel Platini one of the world’s greatest footballers, but poor timing has cost him his place as one of the most powerful men in sport.

The 60-year-old Frenchman — banned for eight years on Monday — regularly battled back from injury and other blows to star in some of football’s most dramatic moments as a player. Escaping FIFA’s corruption turmoil has been a trick too far.

The time between his work as an advisor to FIFA president Sepp Blatter between 1999 and 2002 and a two million Swiss francs ($2 million, 1.8 million euros) payment he received in 2011 was not great tactics.

A FIFA court said on Monday that the reason for the payment stretched credibility.

The grandson of Italian migrants, Platini was born and brought up in the small steel town of Joeuf in eastern France. His father Aldo was a local maths teacher and football coach.

The young Michel quickly showed a gift with the ball. But French football nearly missed out on his talents. He missed one trial with local heavyweights Metz because of injury. For the second he failed a medical test because of the club’s fears about his heart.

Eventually, Nancy signed him and the rest is football history.

Platini won the French Cup with Nancy, a league title with Saint-Etienne and was lured to Juventus in 1982. In Turin, the genius playmaker won two Serie A titles and a European Cup.

The passes were always inch-perfect and for a time, Platini was one of the greatest players in the world. He won the 1984 European Championship with France and the Ballon d’Or in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

His retirement at the age of 32 came as a shock. But a year later, Platini had already started a four-year stint as France’s national coach. The team crashed out of the 1992 European Championship in the first round and he resigned.

Platini remained a legend, however, and he then turned his hand to football administration.

He was co-chairman of the 1998 World Cup organising committee in France and significantly supported Sepp Blatter’s bid to take over the FIFA presidency in 1998.

Platini became vice-president of the French Football Federation in 2001 and scored his first major political victory when he took charge of UEFA in 2007 — shoving out longtime leader Lennart Johansson in the first round of voting.

For years he seemed Blatter’s anointed successor. Chung Mong-Joon, the South Korean tycoon and former FIFA vice-president, said there was a “father and son” relationship between the two.

The distance between them grew as scandal engulfed FIFA under Blatter’s imperial rule.

But for three years from 1999 Platini was an advisor to the world football leader. Their version is that they reached an oral agreement on the salary of one million Swiss francs a year, which was not all paid at the time.

FIFA knew nothing about the deal however and Swiss prosecutors deemed a two million Swiss franc transfer in 2011 to be a “disloyal payment.”

Under Platini, UEFA’s wealth has grown exponentially. The Champions League is one of the world’s top sporting brands. The European Championship in France next year will feature 24 countries for the first time.

But the Frenchman faces other uncomfortable questions, including his vote for Qatar when the Gulf state secured the 2022 World Cup five years ago.

Platini said he wanted to show that his horizons were not limited to Europe.

“I have no regrets at all. I think it was the right choice for FIFA and world football,” he told L’Equipe newspaper in 2014.

Platini has denied he was influenced by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy or the fact that his son Laurent works for a Qatar-owned sports clothing company.

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 after FIFA called for all watches given to executive members to be handed back over a breach of ethics rules.

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