“He who wields the knife never wears the crown,” Michael Heseltine once said of his success in slotting Margaret Thatcher but failing to become Prime Minister, thus coining a phrase that still applies to almost no one in all of history but himself.
But it would now appear that Michel Platini has actually taken note. Platini, the head of European football at Uefa, has confirmed he will not stand against Sepp Blatter for the global body Fifa’s presidency. “It was a choice based on my heart, it was a choice based on football and based on my passion,” he said. “Now is not my time – not yet.”
The Heseltine analogy is not completely accurate. Blatter, unlike Thatcher, appears to be unknifeable, the gap between his septuagenarian shoulder blades guarded by a cheery cabal of dubious African, Caribbean and Latin American football administrators. The most Platini of Europe could hope to do was lop off a couple of oily fingers and hope he might bleed to death. Impossible.
Five of Fifa’s six regional groups have already declared their support for Blatter, as he seeks to extend his reign as Fifa’s head from 17 to 21 years. Only Uefa, the European group, has declared its opposition. Platini knows that neither the knife nor the crown were within his reach. A botched attack is an ugly thing and the crown may well be available in four years’ time when Platini, then only a boyish 63 years of age – positively prepubescent in the blazer-wearing world of sports administration. Blatter promised four years ago that his current term, which ends in January next year, would be his last. He won that election unopposed when Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam pulled out in the wake of bribery allegations that still hang over Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup.
Platini has supported Blatter in all four of his previous campaigns, but withdrew his support for the next one, before the 2014 World Cup.
“I will not support Mr Blatter but I will support him or her who will bring something new for world football and will also defend, maybe, the interests of European football,” he said.
Platini also said he would fight Blatter’s plans to reduce Europe’s World Cup allocation from 15 teams to 13, adding: “I have no intention of losing one place, one seat at the World Cup. But I have the intention to ask for one more, because we are world champion. We won the World Cup three times in a row.”
The English FA is still hopeful a European “protest candidate” can be found, but its general secretary Alex Horne admitted: “We’ve asked [Platini] for the last couple of years to think about whether he wanted to run – as have a number of other national associations.
“I have no doubt Michel would have made a fine candidate. He was probably our front-running potential European candidate. We remain of the view Sepp Blatter has served his time at Fifa. He said very clearly it would be his last term.”Reuse content