PARIS (Reuters) - Michel Platini said the two million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) he received from FIFA, a payment which has cast a cloud over his bid to become president of the world football body, was legitimate reward for genuine work.
In an interview with Le Monde newspaper published on Monday, the head of Europe’s powerful UEFA football federation reaffirmed his determination to run for the top job and said the money was for work he did for FIFA President Sepp Blatter from 1998 to 2002.
Most of the payment, which is being investigated by the Swiss authorities, was only made in 2011. Both Blatter and Platini have denied any wrongdoing over the affair, just one of the controversies roiling the scandal-plagued FIFA.
Platini provided an extensive account of how that advisory work and related payments were agreed with Blatter, telling the newspaper he had never been good with finances and that he had even short-changed himself in the case in question.
Platini said he had asked for one million francs a year for the work which included reform of the global competitions calendar, work on subsidies for the poorest federations, funding for football projects and a lot of travel with Blatter.
“I’ve not used lawyers or negotiating agents for ages,” the former French soccer star told Le Monde. “It was a man-to-man thing.”
Platini said that Blatter had explained that his contract would stipulate an annual sum of 300,000 Swiss francs because that was the top salary rate at FIFA at the time. The rest of the agreed one million a year would be paid at a later date.
Over four years, such a catch-up payment would have totalled 700,000 francs a year, or 2.8 million Swiss francs.
Platini told Le Monde that when years later he was asked to send a bill for money still due to him, he mistakenly remembered a contract salary sum of 500,000 Swiss francs a year rather than 300,000. He therefore sent a bill for a total of only two million francs for the four years in question.
Blatter and Platini were suspended for 90 days on Oct. 8 after Switzerland’s attorney general’s office initiated criminal proceedings against Blatter over the 2011 payment to Platini.
Platini played down the impact on his election chances of the debate over the 2011 payment.
“I don’t think I’ve lost many votes, and people who know me know I can look at myself in the mirror. I‘m bullet-proof,” he said.
“I just hope I‘m not going to be prevented from running. They’re just upset that a footballer rather than a pure politician wants to run things. Well, I don’t like losing. Above all when it’s over an issue that isn’t an issue.”
Competing against Platini for the FIFA presidency are Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid.
The president of Asian soccer, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, is also expected to do so before the October 26 deadline for the vote four months later.
FIFA was plunged into the worst crisis in its history with the indictment by U.S. authorities on May 27 of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives. The U.S. and Swiss authorities are running corruption investigations that include examining the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Reporting By Brian Love, Editing by Angus MacSwan