UEFA president Michel Platini announced Thursday that he will not challenge Sepp Blatter for the leadership of football’s world body but made a new call for Blatter to stand down when his term ends.
The 59-year-old French football legend said he would concentrate on a new term as head of Europe’s governing body instead of taking on Blatter.
His decision leaves the path open for Blatter, 78, to win a fifth four-year term in charge of FIFA in an election next year.
“This is not the time, it is not my time. Not yet,” Platini told reporters.
“I thought long and hard, but never managed to convince myself during these months of reflection that I had to go to FIFA for these elections. It’s as simple as that. Once again, I have chosen to follow my heart. I have chosen football. I have chosen passion.”
Blatter said at the FIFA congress in Brazil in June that he was ready to take on a fifth four-year term in charge of the world body. He has faced opposition from European football chiefs following his statement when elected in 2011 that it would be his last term.
“I think he will be a candidate,” said Platini, while renewing criticism of the Swiss official.
“I helped him in 1998, in 2002, in 2007. In 2011 he asked me to help him. I think he will go for it in 2015, but I will not support him. I told him to his face because I think FIFA needs a breath of fresh air.”
Platini said he had challenged incumbent Lennart Johansson for the UEFA presidency in 2007 “so you can’t accuse me of being scared of Blatter.
“My debate was UEFA or FIFA. I still have respect for Blatter but he should give up his place.”
FIFA and UEFA will hold presidential elections next year. The FIFA vote will be held at its congress in Zurich on May 29.
The only declared candidate so far is Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA deputy secretary general, who has acknowledged that he has little chance of beating Blatter, who gets massive support from federations in Africa and other continents.
Platini said he told UEFA’s 54 member states of his decision at a meeting in Monaco on Thursday before making his announcement public.
“As you have seen, we are working on some very important projects at UEFA, and I still want to see them through before considering one day moving on to pastures new,” Platini said.
“I want to finish what I have started. A bit like when I was a player, and I always saw my contracts through to the end, to honour my commitments. Now is no different. I want to see my contract with UEFA through to the end.”
Platini said he had “no doubts or regrets” about his move.
“I am keener than ever to develop football in Europe ever further, and to defend with vigour the interests of European football and the European associations on the world stage.
“Whether it is the number of places given to European teams at the World Cup, defending the sovereignty of the European associations, the international match calendar or solidarity revenue: European football knows that it can count on me to be at the forefront on these issues.”
On many of these issues, Platini could find himself in conflict with Blatter in coming years.