Belfast Telegraph

Comment: Michel Platini needs to stay away and let decision makers rebuild trust

On duty: Then Uefa president Michel Platini presents NI striker David Healy with a special award for his heroics in scoring a record 13 goals during the Euro 2008 qualifiers
On duty: Then Uefa president Michel Platini presents NI striker David Healy with a special award for his heroics in scoring a record 13 goals during the Euro 2008 qualifiers

By Steven Beacom

Michel Platini is considered one of the greatest players to lace up a pair of boots. He won the Ballon d'Or three times, inspired France to Euro 1984 glory, claimed the league title in his own land with St Etienne and was a serial trophy winner with Italian giants Juventus.

Platini scored numerous spectacular goals from free-kicks and open play and created even more for less gifted team-mates. He was an artist… like a Picasso on grass. The midfielder could pass the ball like few others before him or since.

On the pitch, he was revered and respected. Off it though, having swapped his football shirts for sharp designer suits and positions of influence, Platini's reputation has taken a battering.

On Tuesday, the former Uefa president was questioned by anti-corruption officers in Paris over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar.

Nine years ago, when Fifa voted for Qatar to host the tournament, it was viewed as a highly contentious call. Almost a decade later, the controversy rumbles on. From 2016, France's financial prosecutor's office has been investigating the decision.

Platini was quizzed at length on the subject prior to being released in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The 63-year-old has never denied voting for the Gulf State in 2010. What he has consistently rejected are claims of any wrongdoing.

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Platini's legal representatives insisted he had not been arrested and was acting as a witness. The ex-French manager said that he was 'hurt' by the experience, adding that he tried to answer everything put to him.

Questions remain, however, for football fans in relation to Platini and they are unlikely to fade away.

After all, this was the silky, smooth, stylish star who in 2007 became head of European football's governing body with much goodwill behind him from supporters around the globe.

That disappeared in 2015 when he was handed an eight-year football-related ban over ethics breaches that was later reduced to four years on appeal.

The breach surrounded a £1.35m "disloyal payment" from Sepp Blatter to Platini. Blatter is the disgraced ex-Fifa president who was football's most powerful man when Qatar won the battle to stage the World Cup.

Being linked to Blatter, who has also always rejected claims of wrongdoing, is not a good look.

Platini's ban expires in October. In the past, he has suggested a return to football politics.

The sport could do without him. It does not need a Platini comeback.

With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar drawing closer, the beautiful game is already facing some ugly moments.

There will be constant reminders that after Qatar overcame bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States in a vote by the executive committee of Fifa.

Football's decision makers are trying to win back the trust of the public, managers, players and everyone else involved in the sport.

There is still a long, long way to go.

Belfast Telegraph

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