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Platini looks for another European crowning glory

SoccerNews in European Championships 11 May 2008

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For the most gifted footballer of his generation UEFA president Michel Platini probably didn't accrue the titles his talents deserved.

But he will be hoping that Euro 2008 proves that as an administrator he can add to the one international crown he won with France at the European championships in 1984.

The 52-year-old former French playmaker experienced many heartbreaks in his stellar career not least the Heysel Stadium tragedy when at the 1985 European Cup final between his side Juventus and Liverpool 39 died and over 600 were injured.

However, showing the resilience that has marked his career – which also saw one of the most talented French sides in history lose out to the then West Germany in two World Cup semi-finals in 1982 and 1986 – he has climbed the political ladder to add his mesmerising on pitch skills to the president's chair.

However, Platini, who enjoyed a rollercoaster ride as France coach when he took what looked like a modestly talented side to the 1992 Euro finals and saw them exit in the first round, admits that had he not accepted the role of vice-president of the organising committee of the 1998 World Cup finals, which hosts France won, he might never have acceded to the role he has now.

“It was the request of (Sepp) Blatter in 1998 (now president of FIFA but then secretary-general of football's global governing body) that I come on board for the organising committee of the finals and also help him out,” Platini told L'Equipe magazine.

“It is thanks to Blatter's request that I am where I am today.”

Platini, scorer of 41 goals in 72 internationals for France, admits that getting to become UEFA president was no easy ride, though, evidently he showed the same silky skills lobbying that he did on the pitch hiding an iron will behind the seemingly laid back attitude.

“I didn't really know what to expect (of the vote),” he admitted.

“There had been so much lobbying against me and all the UEFA organisation was against me.

“The secretary-general (Lars-Christer Olsson, who was subsequently relieved of his duties), certain vice-presidents, the sponsors and the Germans wanted none of me.

“Internally at UEFA I had no-one working for me …. except myself.”

For once, though, Platini had the measure of the Germans and a fresher and younger face became head of European football, though, at a cost to himself as he freely admits.

“It does not come free this job,” confessed Platini, who first made his name at the unfashionable club of Nancy before moving on to St Etienne and then to Juventus.

“It has sent my family and socialising habits completely into a spin.

“I and Christele had been living in Paris for 15 years and we had got into a real rhythm.

“People always talk about the Platini of Nancy, St Etienne and Juventus but in reality I have lived more of my life in Paris.

“The good thing about the job is that I have the power and the power to act.”

Platini, who was part of the magical midfield which featured throughout one should say France's glorious failures Jean Tigana and Alain Giresse with Luis Fernandez as the fourth 'musketeer', denies that such a rapid rise has gone to his head.

“I have always had the chance to exercise power, because my name is Platini,” said Platini, who came from humble roots with his father Aldo being a former professional footballer turned coach.

“However, I have always been vaccinated against being bigheaded or letting it go to my head.

“The difference is that before I had the power to say something, now I have the power to do something.”

For Platini, though, nostalgia is never very far away as he remembers the 1982 World Cup semi-final against West Germany when the French let a 3-1 lead slip to a penalty shootout defeat.

“It was a beautiful moment, a great moment, the strongest emotion I have experienced, even without winning the match.

“However, football is like national service, one retains only the good moments even in a time of great distress.”

Platini will be hoping that there will be plenty of good moments and little distress at his showpiece event come June – the master of the unpredictable on the pitch will want none of that off the pitch to spoil his party.

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