Michel Platini has insisted he remains the best candidate to run world football despite his ongoing suspension from the game.
UEFA president Platini has been given a provisional 90-day suspension while a £1.3 million payment he received from FIFA is investigated.
That has thrown into doubt his eligibility to stand in February’s election to replace current FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has also been suspended by the governing body’s ethics committee.
Platini is one of seven candidates in the race but will only be on the ballot in February if his ban is lifted.
However, Platini insisted he would not be thrown off course.
“I am, in all humility, the most able to run world football,” he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
“This suspension prevents me from campaigning and fighting on an equal footing. It clouds what is really at stake in this election for the future of world football.
“Even if I cannot go out campaigning, I fully consider myself a candidate. Today, I have the sense of being a knight from the Middle Ages, in front of a castle. I am trying to get in to bring football back, but instead I’m having boiling oil poured on my head.”
Platini was suspended earlier this month when it emerged that he had been paid £1.3m by FIFA in 2011 for work completed nine years earlier.
However, Platini insisted everything about the payment — which was made three months before a FIFA presidential election in which Platini opted not to challenge Blatter — was above board and properly handled.
“The two million [Swiss francs] represents the equivalent of four years’ salary arrears that FIFA owed me when I was the president’s special adviser. The president himself offered me a contract and a salary that I accepted,” he said.
“So to be clear: Was there work provided? Yes. Is an oral contract legal in Switzerland? Yes. Did I have the right to reclaim my money even nine years later? Yes. Did I produce a proper invoice as FIFA required? Yes. Was the money declared to the taxman? Yes.”
Asked directly about claims that the payment was effectively a bribe to keep him from standing in 2011, Platini said: “These other allegations are not based on anything.”
He also played down the idea that Blatter’s decision to pay him so soon before the election was effectively a trap.
“I don’t want to believe in conspiracy theories,” he said. “Yes, I have waited a long time to reclaim what I was owed. But the only mistake is that I let several years go by.
“I had faith in the word of the FIFA president and I knew he would pay me one day. I was lucky enough not to need the money, but just because I don’t need the money doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be paid for my work.”
Blatter had also given his account of events in the interview he conducted with the TASS news agency this week.
Asked about the contract with Platini, Blatter had said: “When he was chairman of the organising committee for the France World Cup, he told me at the end of the cup, ‘I would like to work for you.’ And I said this is great because we all already worked with him. It was in 1998.
“And then he said that ‘I am very expensive.’ I said OK. So he said, ‘I am worth one million a year.’ I said, ‘I cannot pay this, it’s impossible.’ And he said, ‘OK, then pay me later.’ So we have made some contract, where he got some money, but not one million.
“He was working until he was elected in 2002 to FIFA Executive Committee and UEFA Executive Committee. He stopped his working contract because he was then an official of FIFA. He never touched this item until 2010.
“In 2010 he approached the financial director of FIFA by saying, ‘Hey, listen, FIFA owes us money.’ I was informed about that and I said, ‘OK, let him make an invoice of this, what we owe him.’ And then he said we owe him two million Swiss francs. And then I analysed that and I said OK.
“Yes, it’s a contract we have made. And it’s a principle I have in my life that if you owe money to somebody, then you pay it. Then we paid it. That’s all. And this money was not paid for any other reasons.”