In interview about FIFA payment, top soccer official Michel Platini says he’s ‘not a money man’
Michel Platini, European soccer’s top official, blamed his casual attitude toward money as he tried to explain how he received a contentious $2.7-million payment from FIFA, the sport’s world governing body.
Platini said the sum stemmed from an agreement he had with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, where Platini asked for one million in “whatever” currency in return for work as an adviser.
In an interview published Monday by the French newspaper Le Monde, Platini confirmed that there was initially no written contract and that he did not collect money owed to him for a decade, eventually sending FIFA an inaccurate invoice.
Platini complained that he had been “dragged in the mud” by the controversy.
“I am not a money man,” said Platini, a former French soccer great who still sees himself as a reform- minded candidate to run FIFA, an organization that handles billions of dollars in television and marketing revenue.
Earlier this month, both Platini and Blatter were suspended for 90 days by FIFA’s ethics committee while they were being investigated.
Platini was paid in 2011 for work he said took place from 1998 to 2002. It was the same year Blatter was re-elected as FIFA president. The payment is the latest financial controversy to hit FIFA during a turbulent year that saw the U.S. Fedeal Bureau of Investigation file criminal charges against nine FIFA officials and five sports-marketing executives.
Less than a week after being re-elected to another term this summer, Blatter said he would resign. Platini, a one-time ally and head of Europe’s soccer governing body, UEFA, was a top contender to succeed him.
One of the game’s great midfielders, Platini was known for his smart, elegant passing and scoring savvy while playing in France and Italy in the 1970s and 1980s.
He said his partnership with Blatter started in early 1998, at a gathering in Singapore. At the time, Brazil’s Joao Havelange was ending a 24-year tenure as FIFA president.
Platini said Blatter, a Swiss national and long-time FIFA administrator, invited him to his hotel room and asked, “So, do we go for it or not?”
Platini said he declined because he was busy with the organizing committee for France’s 1998 World Cup.
After Blatter was elected president in June, Platini said the new FIFA boss contacted him again and asked him to work as an adviser, an offer that the Frenchman agreed to take.
“How much do you want?” Blatter asked, according to Platini, who said he replied, “one million.” “In what?”
“In whatever you want, rubles, pounds, dollars,” Platini said he told the FIFA president.
There was no written contract. It was “a man-to-man thing,” Platini said.
He said Blatter then agreed to pay him one million Swiss francs ($1.35-million) a year.
According to Platini, Blatter later told him that FIFA couldn’t pay him a one-million-franc salary because its secretary-general only made 300,000 Swiss francs. So Blatter said they would give Platini a 300,000-franc contract and would pay the balance later, the Frenchman said.
He said he worked as a FIFA adviser from 1998 to 2002, helping overhaul the competition calendar, working on a program to assist local federations and travelling with Mr. Blatter.
Platini said he eventually decided to invoice FIFA but wrongly sent a bill for two million francs for working four years, having forgotten the 300,000-franc contract and thinking that he was owed half a million a year.
The reporter for Le Monde asked Platini if his money-handling attitude was either conceited or negligent. Platini replied that, starting with his first professional soccer cheque when he was 17, he had never lacked for money and didn’t pay attention to his finances.
He said that in 1992 he turned down a job with Spanish club Real Madrid, despite being offered a cheque “where I could add however many zeroes I wanted.”
Platini said he hoped to be cleared soon because he still wanted to run for FIFA president.
“If FIFA doesn’t change,” he warned, “it’s the FBI who’ll make it change.”