Michel Platini: French great enters FIFA presidential race

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    (CNN)European football chief Michel Platini will stand for FIFA's presidency, he announced Wednesday.

    The former France captain -- who is also a vice-president in FIFA's Executive Committee -- is likely to be a leading candidate to replace his rival Sepp Blatter in the February 26 election.
    "This was a very personal, carefully considered decision, one in which I weighed up the future of football alongside my own future," said the 60-year-old, as he confirmed his intention to run in a letter to all 209 member associations of world football's governing body.
      "There are times in life when you have to take your destiny into your own hands. I am at one of those decisive moments, at a juncture in my life and in events that are shaping the future of FIFA," added the UEFA president.
      Football's world governing has recently been embroiled in scandal after the United States indicted 14 people, including nine top FIFA officials, on corruption charges. Swiss authorities simultaneously opened a separate investigation into how the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded.
      In his confirmation letter, Platini made reference to the challenges FIFA is facing.
      "During this last half-century or so, FIFA has only had two presidents. This extreme stability is something of a paradox in a world that has experienced radical upheavals and in a sport that has undergone considerable economic change," he said.
      "However, recent events force the supreme governing body of world football to turn over a new leaf and rethink its governance."
      Platini is likely to be installed as the early favorite in the race, but the perception that the winning World Cup bids by Russia and Qatar for the next two tournaments are tainted may not bode well for the Frenchman, according to football insiders.
      "It'd be a bloody disaster," football author and journalist Philippe Auclair, who has documented Platini's ties to the Qatari government in the past, told CNN.
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      In particular, Auclair has been critical of Platini's endorsement for Qatar's World Cup 2022 bid, which beat presentations from the U.S., Australia, Japan and South Korea to win the Middle East's first staging of soccer's most prestigious event.
      Both 2018 host Russia and Qatar have always publicly denied any wrongdoing with regards to the bidding processes of the two tournaments.
      Following Qatar's securing of the World Cup -- and the widespread criticism that followed -- Platini suggested moving the games to winter months and sharing the tournament with other Gulf countries, despite the proposals never being part of the emirate's elaborate bid.
      When challenged about whether these post-vote tweaks were fair to Qatar's bidding rivals, Platini shrugged off the thought.
      "In 12 years, everybody will be happy to have a very well-organized World Cup and not remember what's happened before," he told reporters in January 2011.
      Platini's fellow French footballing legend Eric Cantona has been equally critical of his compatriot.
      "Speaking of Platini, it's about settling scores, a political war," he told French newspaper Le Parisien last year.
      "He wants to be FIFA president, Blatter wants to remain it. Blatter has started to say, 'Qatar, it's true it's a bad idea, but it was Platini's idea,'" Cantona said.
      "Platini was a great player, he's a great man of football, but today, he's a politician just like the rest.
      "On the other hand, it would be a good thing that -- as they are all politicians -- a former player be elected head of FIFA. When you have to choose between the plague and cholera, it's better to get it from a doctor."
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      However, former Manchester United chief executive David Gill provided a more positive appraisal of Platini's leadership skills.
      "My own personal view is that Michel has done a first-class job at UEFA," the Englishman recently told Sky Sports.
      "I have seen what he has done for UEFA from the outside when I was at Manchester United and then having been on the executive committee of UEFA," added Gill, who did not take up his appointment as a FIFA vice-president this year until after Blatter announced in June he would stand down.
      Platini has had a fractious relationship with former mentor and ally Blatter.
      The two were seen as close until Platini pushed for Blatter to step down ahead of the most recent elections.
      "I told Sepp Blatter to leave, to step down, because he is giving FIFA a terrible image," Platini told reporters in May.
      "It's not easy to tell a friend that he must leave but that is the way history is going. I'm saying this with sadness, with tears in my eyes. There have been too many scandals."
      Instead, Platini endorsed Blatter's sole opponent Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, who dropped out after losing the first round of voting.
      Blatter served just a week of his fifth term as president before dramatically announcing he would step aside in the wake of further implications of FIFA officials, who face extradition to the U.S.
      Platini had a long and storied career in both club and world football, winning the Ballon d'Or player of the year three times from 1983-1985.
      As the leading goalscorer for Juventus, the Italian club won two league titles and two European Cups, while France won the 1984 European Championship under his captaincy.
      He began his administrative career in world football shortly after his retirement in 1987, serving in the UEFA technical board a year later while also assuming coaching duties for the French national team.
      Platini played a part in securing France's 1998 World Cup bid -- a tournament Les Bleus went on to win. Platini joined the FIFA Executive Committee in 2002 and took over as UEFA president in 2007.