The Platini Accession: Mission impossible for Michel, says Magnusson

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The Independent Online

History was made at the Düsseldorf Congress Centre on Friday in more ways than one. Yes, Michel Platini was installed as the seventh president of Uefa with a warning that sent financial controllers at the Premiership's big four into an alarmist mode of foreboding; but that was no real surprise. The shock came when Uefa's honorary treasurer, Mathieu Sprengers, not only admitted that Uefa made "a lot of money", but then quoted Karl Marx as an inspiration for good housekeeping.

Marx and the Champions' League may never again be mentioned in the same breath, so this was an exceptional moment in the evolution of European football. If Lennart Johansson, the creator of that particular cash cow, was vulnerable, at 77, to a fresh wind of change embodied by the 51-year-old Platini's purity and artistry, then the competition itself may be threatened.

But it is unlikely, according to those who know the corridors of power at Uefa's headquarters in Nyon, that Platini will either persist with his bid to cut the English, Italian and Spanish places from four apiece to three or succeed in an overhaul that threatens the "fat girths" who live off the bountiful financial landscape of European football.

"It is one thing to win an election and quite another to run the show," said one insider, a man with more than 20 years' experience of international admin-istration. Platini's victory, by 27 votes to 23, ended 17 years of recovery, growth and prosperity under the amiable old Swede and also saw English replaced by French as the first language of the Continental game.

"Lennart was a very good president, a great president, I think," said Eggert Magnusson, the Icelandic chairman of West Ham, who lost his place on the executive because, he said, he had taken over the running of a big English club. "It was a time for change. I know Michel well. I remember when I was president of Reykjavik in Iceland many years ago and we played against Juventus - and he was their star. I think, now, he is remembering those days when the champion of one country played another. But, really, I cannot see that ever coming back. Not now. There is too much money involved in European football for that.

"Michel may make some changes, but not so dramatic ones. Not to cut out the big clubs. They make too much money. Everybody knows and under-stands it. Michel said this because he is a football man and it came from his heart. But it is like talking of Utopia. It is not realistic. He is clever enough to know that. He knows it is mission impossible."

As a player, Platini was a master of changing the pace and direction of a game. An artist, in every sense of the word, he was capable of selling an outrageous dummy. If anyone thinks he is leading a call for grass-roots communism to take over in the Uefa house, they should be reminded of that.

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