For more than 40 years, soccer has been everything Michel Platini knows, and he, in turn, has been a big part of its history.
Now he faces the very real possibility of a lifetime ban from the sport he loves.
After a 15-year career that saw him have great success in France, Italy and the international game, he had a brief career as a manager, then turned to soccer administration. It is the last step that has landed him in hot water.
According to Platini’s lawyer, Thibaud d’Alès, FIFA’s ethics committee has recommended that his client be banned for life as part of an alleged bribery scheme that also involves disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
As recently as this summer, Platini was running the European soccer federation (UEFA) and considered the leading candidate to replace Blatter, who had announced he would step down in February after Swiss and American criminal investigations led to the arrest of many of his top lieutenants.
Originally, Blatter and Platini had escaped direct allegations, but in September, the Swiss authorities announced they were beginning a criminal investigation into a payment of two million Swiss francs ($1.96 million) from Blatter to Platini in 2011.
Both men claim it was back pay from work Platini had done as an advisor to Blatter between 1999-2002, but neither can produce a contract or explain why the payment happened during a FIFA election cycle where Platini had planned to run against Blatter before backing out.
FIFA’s ethics committee began an investigation into the payment in October, with both men being provisionally suspended for 90 days. Monday, they announced the investigation had concluded, and that sanctions had been recommended against both men. The full committee will hold a hearing with both men before announcing any punishment, but d’Alès and Platini already seem to know what to expect.
“The overreaching of the request really convinces us of this commission’s total lack of credibility,” D’Alès said to The Guardian. “There is not a single tangible element in this case that can confirm the suspicions.”
Platini is considered of the game’s greatest players, winning championships at both the national and international, and he was the head of the 1998 World Cup in France.