Michel Platini: Fighting For a Lost Cause?

Josep Vernet-RieraCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2009

MONACO - AUGUST 28:  UEFA President Michel Platini speaks to the media during the UEFA Europa League Group Stage Draw at the Grimaldi Forum on August 28, 2009 in Monaco, Monaco.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

When Platini was elected president of European football's governing body, UEFA, he promised radical changes which were going to bring back a fairer game. Still, critics are flying in from every corner and sometimes one thinks: Is this a lost cause?

One of his biggest battles is stopping the youth transfer market, which UEFA's president compares to "child trafficking". Platini claimed in a recent interview:

"At age 16 a child cannot work in a factory, but it can receive millions to kick a football!"

This is of course the recent policy of many British clubs that bought foreign-born talents for their reserves, like Man Utd, Chelsea, and most notably Arsenal. 

Probably the most notable case is that of Cesc Fabregas who was signed by Arsenal directly from Barcelona's youth squad—this happened before Barça were planning to offer him a pro contract.

The opinion of younger players, whose parents receive these offers, is not clear.

Leo Messi transferred to Barcelona at age 11 from Argentinian side Newell's Old Boys for €0. Barça sent his parents work offers in the Catalan city and they immediately accepted.

Should this be illegal, too? Yes.

Still, how can UEFA solve this question? With club cooperation.

Clubs should be allowed to sign cooperation contracts in which they could have youth player exchanges. Bigger clubs could sign these deals with smaller clubs and pay yearly fees in order to be able to exchange youth players.

This would avoid the building of international youth centres, since instead bigger clubs would have what we call "satellite clubs".

Another rule that will stir up squads around the continent is the 6+5 rule. 

This rule states that six first team players have to be of the same nationality as the country their club is playing in.

However, this rule is only realistic for elite teams from bigger countries.

How could teams like FC Porto compete with Real Madrid or Manchester United? When you compare the number of quality Portuguese players, they would not sustain two teams at a competitive level, since the best would get bought by European elite teams.

SL Benfica, Portugal's biggest club, has only two Portuguese players in the starting eleven and the same goes for FC Porto as well.

With the best Portuguese players performing in Spain, England, and Italy, how could smaller teams from smaller countries compete with the elite?

They could not.

This rule only makes sense for Europe's top clubs and how could UEFA chose which teams should be considered as "elite teams" or not?

First of all, one would have to consider the size of the population. How many football players are there in the country? This has to be the first factor.

If a club hails from a small country then it should be obliged to have only three or four national players in the team.

The second factor would be the budget. If a team has a budget over a certain amount of money, then it should be considered an elite side and thus putting the side under the jurisdiction of the "6+5" rule.

Most recently, Platini got a lot of heat for his controversial change in the CL qualifying stages.

The "Champions' qualifiers" and "Non-Champions' qualifiers" are indeed fairer. With this model the CL has become a really European competition. 

Instead of having top clubs from the British Isles, Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Portugal, now we have teams from Bulgaria and Cyprus and they are not bad teams.

APOEL Nicosia drew 0-0 at Atlético Madrid and the Bulgarian champions almost got away with a draw against Liverpool.

In my opinion, the competition looks fairer now than some years ago, giving every champion a chance at having a slice of the millionaire benefits from playing in the CL.

The Europa League has also improved. The "poor cousin" of the CL is now considerably richer and more attractive with a fairer group stage, which is now similar to the CL model. 

These improvements in the Europa League will give smaller clubs a bigger chance of making more profit due to their appearances in UEFA competitions, thus making them more attractive for upcoming players and coaches.

However, it is football economy that draws Platini's biggest worries and attention.

Ronaldo's record transfer fee raised huge criticism by UEFA's president who classified the transfer fee as immoral.

Is he not being reasonable? 

€93 million for kicking a ball is too much, so Platini decided that UEFA should implement a transfer fee cap and a salary cap as well.

These ideas are widely spread in American sports and they actually work. So why not try the same thing in football?

The former French captain also fights against foreign capital in European clubs.

The EPL has enjoyed recent success mainly due to the millionaire contributions of generous owners. 

Overnight, Chelsea became an elite side and Manchester City can now defy Manchester United. Liverpool got injected with American capital like Man Utd, and other clubs like Birmingham, are being bought by Asian multimillionaires.

When questioned about this topic, Platini promptly answered:

"I'd rather see an Arab investor, investing in Arab clubs."

Could this be classified as racist? I do not think so. 

Platini also said that teams with debts should not be able to play in European competitions ,and with good reason.

Clubs have to balance their finances, they can not expect to balance them with the millions that UEFA gives out in the CL. 

These measures belong to a project called "Financial Fair Play", which has already kicked off under some criticism, as usual.

Moans coming from EPL owners have been heard because of this package, but in the end football cannot be a business, it has to be a game and Platini is just trying to rehabilitate it.


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