Even at the height of his garlanded playing career, Michel Platini cannot have been feted quite like he was yesterday. In the Grand Palais on the banks of the Seine, the former captain of France was re-elected unopposed for a second term as president of Uefa complete with an accompanying standing ovation, a tacit acknowledgement among the delegates from across Europe that the 55-year-old has become as key a player off the pitch as he ever was on it.
Away from the speakers' platform, Platini has remained the centre of attention. He is the primary reason Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam have spent the last two days in Paris, at the court of Uefa's king. Both the incumbent and his Middle Eastern challenger have in effect offered to serve a term as Fifa president and then deliver their blessing to a Platini succession – if Platini will favour them in the current campaign.
Platini may not carry a block vote like the controversial Jack Warner, who wields the 37 Concacaf votes as he sees fit, but as his reception demonstrates the Frenchman will have a significant say over the direction in which the 53 European votes are cast in the Fifa elections in two months' time. He has in the past been a Blatter ally, and regarded as the 75-year-old's natural successor, but Bin Hammam has courted him assiduously in recent months.
"I'm going to meet with associations, [Uefa] vice-presidents, countries and we will together decide which stance we will adopt regarding the candidates," said Platini. "I can't speak in my name any more and I have to listen to all opinions before we have an official stance."
He would not be drawn on any future plans to run for the Fifa presidency. "Let's meet again in three years and I will tell you," he said.
Blatter spoke to the Uefa congress yesterday, admitting for the first time that if he wins a fourth term he will not seek another – he will be 79 by then, but nevertheless it was a clear invitation to Platini. During his speech he also appealed for the game to confront the growing threat of match-fixing and corruption; a theme Platini holds dear.
"Football is corrupted by all little devils which exist in the world," said Blatter. "Don't forget that football is a game and that when one is playing, he always tries to cheat a little bit. Together we have the task of bringing together the adventure we have started. We want to ensure a better future for our youth," continued the man recently returned from meeting members of Burma's military regime.
Blatter, whose tenure has been intermittently dogged by a number of scandals surrounding Fifa members, promised "zero tolerance" of corruption. "We can see cases of corruption that hurt the whole football family and for this reason at the Fifa Congress we will show we will have zero tolerance," said Blatter. "We will have zero tolerance on the pitch, more respect towards referees. There will be zero tolerance beyond the pitch – we have the instruments, the disciplinary committee, the ethics committee, and it's time to act. We will do whatever is necessary."Reuse content