Platini, light and shadow

For a long time, Michel Platini was only talked about by bright free-kicks or the reformer at UEFA. But setbacks and affairs disturbed and eventually tarnished his image.

When Platini – then President of UEFA – announced on 29 July 2015 that he was running as a candidate for Fifa’s presidential elections, he was the big favourite. The harder the fall.

First of all, there is this famous payment of 1.8 million euros from Fifa President Sepp Blatter to the French in 2011 for a consulting activity concluded in 2002 without a written contract, which will first interest the Swiss civil judiciary, then FIFA Sporting Justice.

The two men are being suspended from Fifa and losing their posts ahead of the long-awaited trial scheduled for Wednesday-June 22 in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Platini and Blatter face criminal charges of “fraud”, “dishonest business dealings”, “embezzlement” and “false title”.

In October 2015, Blatter – Mentor Platini’s best enemy at the time – also threw a stone in the pond, citing “state interference by Nicolas Sarkozy” which would have led to the former playmaker reversing his vote to vote in favor in December 2010 of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.

– Prison –

Platini is being taken into police custody in June 2019 as part of an investigation into “a secret meeting” at the Elysée Palace on 23 November 2010, which he attended accompanied by Mr Sarkozy and Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani (who is now Emir of Qatar). No charges have yet been brought against him in the investigations by the National Public Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) since 2016 into “private corruption”, “criminal organization”, “influence and concealment of influence”.

This business tarnished the aura of this grandson of humble Italian immigrants whose career has long been straightforward.

And spectacular, from his childhood in Joeuf (eastern France) to the UEFA presidency in 2007, through fame with Juventus, victory at Euro 1984 and three Ballons d’Or, record for a Frenchman (1983, 1984, 1985) , or even the 1998 World Cup in France, where he was one of the main organizers. The only downside, a mixed record as coach of the French team from 1988 to 1992.

Even the tragedy at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels on May 29, 1985, in which 39 people died, did not dampen his love of football. Platini had played and won the European Champion Clubs’ Cup final against Liverpool (1-0) shortly after the horror scenes, but said the final “had a hold on him” ever since.

– ease with money –

His friends assure that the man has never changed, although the curly hair has become thinner and whiter, and noticeable excess weight has weighed on his silhouette. “Platoche” – a nickname he hates – has retained his schoolboy, even lodger side.

“It’s not because you drew the balls (during the draws) that you can represent Fifa,” he said in a round table with some Europeans against current Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who was his N.2 at UEFA Newspapers in June 2019.

Platini has always advocated good faith. For the 1.8 million euro affair, he said in June 2019: “My story is similar to Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Negroes: They all stabbed them when they needed to be stabbed. So that I don’t become (Fifa) President.”

Nonetheless, this file has revealed a certain lightness in its relation to money. In Le Monde he had related the origin of the contract like this: “+ How much do you want? +,” asks Blatter. I answer: + A million +. + What? +, + Whatever you want, rubles, books, dollars.+ There was no euro back then. He replied: +Okay, one million francs a year.+”

Platini’s connections to money were suddenly exposed. In Saint-Etienne, where he was crowned French champion (1981) after winning the Coupe de France with Nancy (1978), his name was already at the center of the case of the slush fund from which the salaries were paid the best players.

Platini was also quoted in the Panama Papers, a major survey of tax havens. He then told AFP “that all his accounts and assets were (were) known to the Swiss tax authorities, a country where he has been a tax resident since 2007.”

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