Michel Platini savoured countless memorable moments in a glittering career as one of the best footballers the world has ever seen. Now, after his election as the sixth President of UEFA on Friday to replace Lennart Johansson by a margin of 27 votes to 23, the Frenchman embarks on another fascinating adventure.
Shaping the game
Mr Platini, elected to the helm of European football's governing body at the XXXI Ordinary UEFA Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany on Friday, has been given the brief by European football associations to shape the course of the game on this continent over the coming years. "
I love football and I love UEFA," Mr Platini said. "I love its competitions. I won a number of its trophies, and I have intensively lived its dramas."
The rise to the presidency for 51-year-old Mr Platini follows an outstanding career on the field. A supremely gifted No10 - the number given in past times to the 'playmaker' who orchestrated the team's display - with an astute footballing vision, he is the only man to win three consecutive European Footballer of the Year awards, in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Setting out on the road to glory with local club AS Nancy-Lorraine, he helped them to promotion in 1975 and won the 1978 French Cup. He moved to AS Saint-Etienne in 1979, winning the French title two years later, before reaching the summit of his art in Italy, at Juventus, where he was a talismanic force after joining in 1982. In his first season Juve won the Coppa Italia and reached the European Champion Clubs' Cup final. The next season they finished top of Serie A and lifted the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup - Mr Platini the first Frenchman to taste victory in that competition - and 1985 brought a European Cup triumph, though overshadowed by the tragedy at the final in Brussels.
In all those three seasons Mr Platini was the top scorer in Serie A and in 1985 he was awarded made a knight of the Légion d'honneur and also starred as Juve won the European/South American Cup. Alongside those honours with his clubs came glory for his country - a treasured UEFA European Championship triumph on home soil in 1984. A total of 72 appearances for Les Bleus, 49 as captain, yielded a record 41 goals, and he also helped France to two FIFA World Cup semi-finals.
Coach and politician
After his retirement, Mr Platini remained revered by his countrymen as a football legend. He served as French national-team coach from 1988 to 1992, leading his team to the EURO '92 finals in Sweden with the first perfect qualification group record ever achieved in the competition, before following the political and administrative road that has culminated in his election in Dusseldorf, leading the organisation for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. He has been a member of the UEFA Executive Committee and European member of the FIFA Executive Committee since 2002, and also serves as chairman of the FIFA Technical Development Committee. In addition, Mr Platini is a vice-president within the French Football Federation.
Football is a game before a product," he explained. "A sport before a market...a spectacle before a business. Football is a treasure, a simple and popular game that all children in the world dream of playing. I am prepared to protect and defend this treasure."
Preserving the magic
Mr Platini promises to enrich football as UEFA President - "to preserve the magic of football, its universal appeal, and its soul, which are its real riches," as he stated in his election manifesto. "I will be the passionate and unprejudiced servant of the football we all love. We will work together to develop it, taking care not only to preserve its heritage, but also and more importantly to enrich it. From the grassroots to the élite, from the base to the pinnacle, there are still many things to create, perfect and consolidate."
The new UEFA President says he will fight to defend the game's values - respect, tolerance, solidarity, freedom - as well as its gift of protecting and fulfilling people of all ages. "We will work as a team, because football is a great collective adventure," he says in assuming the captain's armband. Reinforcement of UEFA's HatTrick assistance programme and Top Executive Programme for the national associations are priority points in Mr Platini's manifesto, along with preserving football's autonomy and specific nature. The fight will continue against illegal betting and doping.
'UEFA is a benchmark'
"UEFA is a benchmark, it has to lead by example," he explains. Mr Platini brilliantly led by example on the field, and wishes to take up the same baton now. "Let football remain the game that has been the dream of generations, that fills children with wonder, and unites Europeans" is his call. The European football family will wish Michel Platini every success as he sets off on a new journey.
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