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Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Powerful Platini

By Gordon Farquhar
Sports news correspondent, BBC Radio 5 Live

David Beckham
Platini will raise David Beckham's loan spell at AC Milan with world body Fifa

It is not often the Uefa president Michel Platini sits down with a group of British journalists and offers his view of the world.

He tends not to get a very favourable press here, and is perceived as being, if not exactly hostile, then at least somewhat antagonistic towards the Premier League and the English game in general.

"I read opinions of journalists who write what they think I think, but they don't ask what I think," Platini said. "It's strange."

Well, we have asked, and now we know, across a range of issues what Platini thinks about the 2018 World Cup bid, David Beckham's move to AC Milan, and how best to tackle the dominance of a handful of clubs in European competitions.

Platini insists he is driven by a philosophy of creating fairer competition to give everyone a chance to win.

It is a great platform to get you elected president, but working out how to deliver on that promise to Uefa's 53 members is harder to answer.

At its heart will be a concerted effort to find a way to take a controlling influence over clubs' finances that produces, in time, a more level playing field.

Uefa's Strategy Council, made up of representatives of the associations, players and clubs, will look at a number of proposals at their meeting in March.

Those include preventing clubs spending above their income, limiting spending on wages to a percentage of income, and reducing squad sizes to 25 from 40 or more at the biggest clubs.

Michel Platini
What next? Clubs signing a player for one game? The Champions League final?

Michel Platini

Platini insists these proposals are not specifically aimed at the Premier League: "It's not an English problem, it's a European problem and I have to find a good system which allows everybody a chance to win."

The measures would apply to clubs wanting to take part in Uefa's competitions. Those that do not comply would be replaced by others that can from the same league.

Platini insists this approach has the broad support of the clubs themselves, and the new breed of super-rich owners.

"They don't want to have to put their hand in their own pocket to cover debts every season," said Uefa's president. "I'm sure many English clubs want help in this. I'm not here to disturb English football, I'm here to protect it."

Platini acknowledges that this will not be easy with the need to satisfy European law, but he insisted: "We will do this through consensus."

There is more than a hint of the reformer's zeal when Platini describes himself as "the originator of a morality". He is clearly a man on a mission.

Asked about his perceived frosty relationship with the Premier League, he said: "England is atypical of Europe. Normally, the Football Association is the boss of football, but in England, this is different.


"There is big power in the Premier League and they do what they want, sometimes against the statutes of Fifa, but there isn't a bad rapport, it's a different philosophy."

Asked what he likes about English football, Platini cited the passion of the fans, the stadiums, the pitches, the style of play and the presentation of the game by the broadcasters.

But he is less enamoured by the spending power of the likes of Manchester City and specifically the £108m bid for Kaka.

"Ridiculous," said Platini. "It's why we have to act, to do some things. It's not good for the future of football, we have to have financial fair play.

"How one guy can cost £108m is ridiculous from a social, football and financial point of view.

"In Manchester City they can work with all the young players in Manchester and bring them to the academy and they become like Kaka."

Platini was unimpressed by Manchester City's big-money attempt to sign Kaka

When the conversation turned to David Beckham's move to AC Milan, Platini again bristled, arguing it is not right the midfielder should come to Milan on a three-month loan. So much so that he plans to raise the issue with Fifa.

Players, he believes, should make a commitment to a club for a season, or not at all.

"What next? Clubs signing a player for one game? The Champions League final?" questioned Platini, who stresses he has nothing personally against Beckham, whom he respects as a player and a person.

Platini extended this thinking by effectively calling into question the idea of a domestic January transfer window, arguing it is nonsensical for a player to start the opening match of a season for one team, only to play against that team later in the campaign after transfer.

No amount of provocation could get Platini to admit a preference for one of the prospective European bidders for the 2018 World Cup.

England has everything required, was about as far as he would go in praise of home ambitions.

Platini wants Fifa to agree that the 2018 tournament should come to Europe, and there be a run-off between the joint bids of Spain and Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium, and the desires of England and Russia.

"I must convince the [Fifa] executive committee that it's Europe's turn for 2018 - then there will be a vote of the 24 members.

"I can't say I support anyone. My job is to bring the World Cup to Europe in 2018."

Platini left an impression that he demands to be taken seriously, and that as a man of vision he is intent on leaving his mark on the history of the game.

Realising that ambition will take as much if not more political skill and leadership than he showed with the ball at his feet

As a player he was a genius. He cannot afford to be anything less as Uefa president.

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see also
The race to host World Cup 2018
05 Feb 09 |  Internationals
England 2018 Cup rivals confirmed
04 Feb 09 |  Internationals
Beckham makes AC Milan debut
06 Jan 09 |  Europe
Platini rejects EU regulator plan
27 Nov 08 |  Football
Platini attacks top-flight set-up
08 Oct 08 |  Football

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