Michel Platini: The case for world football’s white knight is not as black and white as it seems

Platini has been backed to replace Sepp Blatter as Fifa president

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It was almost a year ago that Eric Cantona likened a choice between Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini to having to choose between cholera and the plague.

Mercifully, such a decision will now never be forced on world football. Cholera has been eradicated. But the threat of the plague is resurgent.

It is now a week since Michel Platini looked his “friend, Sepp in the eye and told him, face to face, man to man, leave Fifa,” those stern words of which he took absolutely no notice, won his fifth election and emerged utterly defiant, albeit briefly.


In Blatter’s wake, Platini is the new colossus in football politics, seen by many as the White Knight charging football’s reeking corridors of power. He is nothing of the sort.

If it was, ultimately the decision to give the 2022 World Cup to Qatar that has finally caused Fifa’s house of cards to tumble, remember that Sepp Blatter didn’t vote for it. Platini did. His friend Zinedine Zidane was reportedly paid huge sums to lobby for it. Platini dined with Nicholas Sarkozy and the son of the Emir of Qatar at the Elysees Palace, not long before the vote, and after which the Qatar Sports Investment fund bought Sarkozy’s team Paris Saint Germain.

Two months ago, when the Qatar tournament was formally moved to December, trashing almost every major domestic football league in the world, and in direct contravention to the terms under which the vote was conducted, Platini claimed: “I always said I will vote for Qatar, but that I will do my best for it to be in winter and I hope it will be in the Gulf.

“I’m totally coherent with what I said four years ago, totally. I work for what I am convinced is good for football.”

Blatter eventually turned on Platini

His claim, then, was that he voted for a Qatar Summer tournament on the basis that it would come to be jointly held all around the Gulf, and not in the summer. And if you believe that, then, well, I have a World Cup to sell you.

Blatter turned on Platini in the end. The successor was removed. But if Platini really is the bookies favourite for the top job, it is because there remains enough residual appeal from his days at the centre of Fifa’s machinating heart to attract those who are still not convinced that a fundamental change is needed. It is for that reason that Europe, and the rest of the football world, must look beyond.