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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 13:33 GMT
Great player turns political force

By Jonathan Stevenson

MICHEL PLATINI FACTFILE
Michel Platini with his predecessor Lennart Johansson
Born: Joeuf, 21 June 1955
Clubs: Nancy (1972-79), St Etienne (1979-82), Juventus (1982-87)
Honours: European Footballer of the Year (1983, 1984, 1985), Euro Ch'ship (1984), European Cup (1985), European Cup Winners' Cup (1984), French title (1978), Italian title (1984, 1986), Italian Cup (1983)
France career: 72 caps (49 as captain), 41 goals

"It is a game before a product, a sport before a market, a show before a business."

That is the gospel according to the new Uefa president and one of the finest players the beautiful game has ever seen - Michel Francois Platini.

On Friday, Platini won election to just about the only job in football he hadn't yet had - that of leader of the second most powerful organisation in the sport.

French footballer extraordinaire, coach of the national team, head of the organising committee for the 1998 World Cup in France and now Uefa president.

At just 51, Platini has enjoyed a remarkable ride in the game he graced with such elegance and class.

As a player, Platini combined the playmaking majesty of a true number 10 with the ruthless goalscoring efficiency of a born striker. He was a rarity in that he enjoyed creating goals every bit as much as scoring them.

He touched heights few have before or since in both club and international football - playing for Italian greats Juventus and an inspirational French national side which was involved in some of the defining matches of the 1980s.

Winning titles and cups and finishing as Capocannonieri - top scorer - in Serie A three times in a row meant Platini stood head and shoulders above almost all his contemporaries, bar Diego Maradona.

WHAT THEY SAID/WHAT HE SAID
He could thread the ball through the eye of a needle

Bobby Charlton on Platini

What Zidane does with a ball, Maradona could do with an orange

Platini on Diego Maradona

He even won the European Footballer of the Year award three years in a row, a remarkable feat not achieved before or since.

But as well as all the success, Platini's years at Juventus were tinged with great sadness, as his spell coincided with the Heysel disaster at the European Cup final against Liverpool in 1985, when 39 fans died after a wall collapsed.

Platini struck the winner from the penalty spot in the 1-0 win and was criticised for his excessive celebrations, though he later said the players had not been told during the game of the exact seriousness of the tragedy.

Platini was born in Joeuf, France, on 21 June 1955, the son of Aldo, an immigrant stonemason from Piedmont in Italy.

Two early trials with Metz went horribly wrong - at the second, a breathing test on a spirometer caused Platini to faint and his chance of being handed a contract disappeared.

But he remained convinced he could carve out a career in the game and joined Nancy in 1972, quickly bagging a hat-trick in a reserve game and getting himself into first-team contention.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson

Nancy were relegated in 1974 after Platini suffered a double fracture of his left arm, but he led them to promotion the year after, netting 17 goals in the process and gaining a reputation as a dead-ball specialist.

He won the French Cup in 1978 and left for St Etienne in 1979, where he scooped his first league title in 1981 before leaving to become a legend at Juventus a year later.

However, it was in the colours of Les Bleus that Platini indelibly left his mark as a giant of the sport.

At the 1982 World Cup, captain Platini led the French side to the semi-finals where they lost 5-4 on penalties after an epic 3-3 draw with West Germany, a match he himself describes as "the greatest memory of my career".

Two years on, he skippered the side to its first ever trophy, winning the European Championship on home soil, scoring as they beat Spain 2-0 in the final.

Michel Platini lifts the European Championship trophy as France captain in 1984
Michel Platini's finest hour came as France captain at Euro 1984

Platini scored nine goals in five games overall, including two perfect hat-tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia - one goal with his right foot, one with his left and a header, too.

In 1986, Platini and his team were strong favourites to win the World Cup.

Their quarter-final with Brazil will go down in football folklore as one of the finest games ever seen, between two teams desperate to put on an exhibition of all that is great about the sport.

An exhilarating end-to-end contest finished 1-1, with Zico having a second-half spot-kick saved, before France progressed on penalties, though an exhausted Platini missed his.

Into the last four, they once again came up against West Germany. But France could not gain revenge for four years previously and Platini played only one more time for his country.

It was not long before he was back with Les Blues, though, becoming coach of the national side in 1988, aged just 33.

Failure to qualify for the 1990 World Cup and a first-round exit at Euro 1992 led Platini to step down, to concentrate on his role as vice-chairman of the organising committee for the 1998 World Cup in France.

WHAT THEY SAID/WHAT HE SAID
He has stood by my side for the turmoils of the last eight years

Fifa chief Sepp Blatter on Platini

Football truly is an extraordinary education for life

Platini on the beautiful game

After overseeing a successful tournament, Platini's focus shifted to the politics of football and for the next four years he learned at the feet of Fifa president Sepp Blatter as one of his personal advisers.

He became a member of Uefa and Fifa's executive committees in 2002 and also joined the Uefa technical committee, deciding in June 2006 that he would challenge Lennart Johansson to become the president of Uefa.

It seems the time he spent with Blatter was a shrewd move by Platini and one that paid off handsomely, as Blatter categorically supported his campaign to oust the Swede after his 17-year reign.

Platini has promised to limit the number of Champions League places to three per country, rather than the current four, a move which seems certain to become unpopular in England, Spain, Italy and Germany.

He also stands side-by-side with Blatter in wanting to concentrate on the more social side of football rather than financial.

Michel Platini's biggest challenge may have only just begun.



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