This has not been a good month for Michel Platini.
When September turned to October, UEFA president Platini was the clear front-runner to replace beleaguered FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who was supposedly planning to finally step down after the February 2016 FIFA presidential elections.
Platini had it good. Europe had his back, so did many Asian and South American nations. Everything was rainbows and champagne, even though there were always plenty of questions about Platini’s past and candidacy. And then everything crumbled. It must have been devastating.
Platini’s now suspended for 90 days “from all football-related activity,” only several weeks after he was dancing toward the finish line like a wide receiver 10 yards from the end zone. His suspension resulted from a $2 million payment he received from FIFA in 2011, for work he supposedly did as Blatter’s personal advisor between 1998 and 2002. Both Platini and Blatter have admitted that there was no written contract between the two for the work. Platini called the agreement “a thing between two men.” Blatter refers to the verbal agreement as a “gentleman’s agreement.” Both men claim innocence on the matter.
It’s unclear whether Platini’s ban will rule him out from seeking the FIFA presidency. He turned in his paperwork ahead of the October 26 deadline, and before he was hit with his suspension. But it’s possible his ban could be extended, or he may not pass the integrity check run on all FIFA presidential candidates.
In the meantime, without any football-related activities to occupy his time, Platini has turned to defending himself. Thus far, it isn’t going that great.
At least publicly, Platini doesn’t see where he could’ve done anything wrong. He recently told French newspaper Le Monde that he was “bulletproof.” That may explain why he thinks the explanation he gave to the French daily about the payment negotiations between himself and Blatter is reasonable.
“‘How much to you want?’ Blatter asks.
“I reply: ‘One million.’
“‘Whatever you want: rubles, pounds, dollars.’ There was still no euro then.
“He replies, ‘Agreed. One million Swiss francs per year.’”
As a reminder, that’s Platini recounting the negotiation of a verbal agreement between himself and Blatter, using FIFA’s money. No mention of a written agreement. No mention of any administrative procedures. Just a thing between two men, worth one million Swiss francs.
As he keeps talking, it doesn’t get any better:
“I worked for several months without pay. After a while, I go see Blatter: ‘You have a problem paying me?’
“He says: ‘Yes, I can’t pay you 1 million because of the wage structure. You must understand that the secretary general gets 300,000 Swiss francs. You can’t get more than three times his salary. So we’ll write you a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs and pay the rest later.’
“And that’s what happened. Only later never arrived.”
You really have to wonder whether two men—gentlemen, even—who can’t quite figure out how or why such an agreement may not be kosher, should be in charge of an organization that’s lost almost all of its credibility largely due to a constant barrage of corruption charges and a complete lack of transparency.