He was the greatest French footballer of all time, elegance and personality made him one of the most charismatic footballers seen on a football field. Considered by many insiders to be one of the best players in history, he played as an attacking midfielder with a great vision of the game and an excellent nose for goal.
Michel Platini was born in a small village Joeuf, in the department of Meurthe and Moselle in the Lorraine region. His family is originally from Agrate Conturbia in Piedmont, his paternal grandfather emigrated to France where he opened a restaurant-bar called Le Cafè des Sports since he was a great sports fan.
His father Aldo was a mathematics professor, who played football in Jovincenne and later became manager of Nancy playing in the third division. Growing up in a sporting family, little Michel soon began playing football in the local team and immediately had an idol to inspire him: Pele. As a child he was not equipped with a great physique and also had lung and heart problems, for this reason he had to overcome several obstacles before establishing himself as a professional footballer.
Transfer to Nancy
After several negative situations in which he was rejected by some clubs, in 1972 he was taken by Nancy where he signed his first contract. He began playing with the second team and thanks to some convincing performances he reached the first team, where he made his debut on May 2, 1973 against Nimes at the age of seventeen, this season he was the author of 2 goals with 5 appearances in total. In the following season 1973/74 he made 21 appearances scoring 2 goals, but Nancy relegated to the second division.
In the following season in the second division Nancy won the category final against Valenciennes and returned to the first division, Platini was the author of 17 goals in 33 appearances, while in the French Cup he scored 13 goals in 8 games. From that moment everyone noticed his great class, which he confirmed in the 1976/77 season where the team finished fourth in the league, led by Platini who scored 25 goals in 38 appearances, finishing second in the scorers standings behind the Argentine Carlos Bianchi . In that season, also following excellent performances with the French national team, he finished third in the Ballon d’Or standings, behind Allan Simonsen and Kevin Keegan.
The following season Platini lifted his first trophy with Nancy by winning the French Cup against Nice 1-0 thanks to his goal in the final. The following season was the last with the Lorraine team, in which there were several problems starting from those with the national team at the World Cup in Argentina. In a game against Saint-Etienne he broke his malleolus which forced him to be sidelined for six months. His career with Nancy ended with 215 appearances and 127 goals, which has always made him the best scorer of the Lorraine team.
When his contract with Nancy expired, Platini moved to Sant-Étienne, the most successful and important team in France at the time. His arrival is considered essential to be able to win a European cup, but within two seasons they managed to reach the quarter-finals.
In the championship Platini won his first tournament in 1981, where Sant-Étienne after a head-to-head match, got the better of Nantes and above all in the last match against Bordeaux, the playmaker was the author of a decisive brace for the final victory both of the match and of the championship. In the following season, bottom in Sant-Étienne’s ranks, the team finished second and Platini third in the scoring charts with 22 goals. In Sant-Étienne he will play 145 games scoring 85 goals, winning a title of Champion of France.
Italy and Juventus
A few years earlier Platini was very close to Inter, but in the end the black and blue club was not convinced to sign him and in the 1982/83 season the French playmaker arrived at Juventus, strongly desired by the lawyer Agnelli, a great admirer of him. The cost of his card was 250 million lire and he arrived in black and white together with the Polish Boniek.
The first six months in black and white were difficult because he couldn’t settle in, but in the second round, he exploded and at the end of the championship he managed to score 16 goals, becoming the top scorer of the tournament. Juventus finished second behind Falcao’s Roma, and won the Italian Cup in the final against Verona, while they reached the final of the Champions Cup which they lost in Athens against Hamburg, after the Frenchman was decisive in the quarterfinals and semifinals. both rounds against the Danes of Hvidovre and the Poles of Widzew Lodz.
In the 1983/84 season, the Frenchman began with a brace against Ascoli and at the end of the championship he scored 20 goals in 28 appearances, which earned him the title of top scorer ahead of the Brazilian Zico from Udinese. At the end of the season Juventus won the championship which was also Platini’s first in black and white. In Europe, the Juventus team won the Cup Winners’ Cup by beating Porto 2-1 in the final. In that season Platini thanks to the splendid season with the black and whites, wins his first Ballon d’Or in front of the Scottish Kenny Dalglish.
In the 1984/85 season, the Frenchman starts with a hat-trick in the Italian Cup against Sanbenedettese and will end the season with 18 goals ahead of Maradona and Altobelli and will conquer the title of top scorer for the third time. Juventus will finish sixth in the league, while they will win the UEFA Super Cup and the European Cup in the dramatic final at the Heysel against Liverpool where 39 people died due to the behavior of English hooligans. In that match Platini scored the decisive penalty for the victory of the bianconeri.
In the 1985/86 season Juventus, due to some important sales such as those of Tardelli, Boniek and Paolo Rossi, the team completely changed its face, but this did not prevent it from first winning the Intercontinental Cup against the Argentines of Argentinos Juniors in Tokyo , then the championship. Platini won his third Ballon d’Or.
In the following season, due to his declining performance, the French playmaker scored just two goals and at the end of the season he announced his retirement from competitive activity due to physical problems at the age of 32. Later he will say that the withdrawal was also due to the fact that he no longer had the incentive to continue playing after so many years of activity at the highest levels.
The French national team
He was called up to the national team for the first time in March 1976 for the friendly match against Czechoslovakia which ended 2-2 in which he scored the first goal. He then played qualifying matches for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and scored three goals in four games which allowed the French to qualify for the finals. The World Cup in Argentina did not go well for the French, who went out in the group stage, in which Platini scored only one goal against the Argentine hosts.
In the four-year period from 1978 to 1982 there were matches for qualifying for the World Cup in Spain and Platini dragged the transalpines to qualification by scoring 5 goals in 5 games. In the Spanish World Cup Platini plays very well and drags his team to the semifinal against Germany where they will lose on penalties, after leading 3-1 and comeback by the Germans at the end of regulation time.
In 1984 the Europeans were played in France and the team led by Platini achieved success. The French star scored 9 goals in 5 games, also scoring in the final against Spain on a penalty kick. In that event he conquered the title of top scorer ahead of Gerd Muller and Dieter Muller.
In the two-year period from 1985 to 1987, these were Platini’s last years in the national team. In the 1986 World Cup in Mexico he scored a splendid goal against Italy, the World Champion in the qualifying round. He scored again in the quarter-final against Brazil, while France lost the semi-final to Germany as they did four years earlier. The transalpine team will finish the Spanish World Cup in third place after beating Belgium. Subsequently he will participate in three qualifying matches for the 1988 European Championships, before having to announce his retirement from competitive activity.
Coach and manager
After Platini’s competitive career he became coach of the French national team on November 1, 1988 until June 17, 1992, where he failed to win any trophies.
In the qualifiers for the Italia 90 World Cup, the French team coached by Platini failed to qualify, finishing third behind Scotland and Yugoslavia. Immediately after the 1990 World Cup, in the 1992 European Qualifiers the French team managed to achieve 19 consecutive useful results which allowed Platini to win the award for Coach of the Year according to World Soccer magazine. Despite this path of important results, they were eliminated in the group stage by Sweden and Denmark at the European Championships. The coaching career ended with 29 matches of which 16 won, 8 drawn and 5 lost.
After his coaching career, he was appointed responsible for organizing the 1998 World Cup in France. From there he will begin his career as a manager which will first lead him to be vice-president of the French Federation and subsequently appointed president of UEFA where he will be elected for three terms until 2015.
In the years of presidency at UEFA, Platini was the promoter of several changes starting from the championships at the European level. In 2015 he also announced his candidacy in the elections for the presidency of FIFA, where, however, he had to give up because in the meantime he was involved in a legal case regarding money received from FIFA president Blatter for consultancy.
In fact, according to the investigative bodies, they represented bribes that served to bribe President Platini on the occasion of Blatter’s election to the presidency of FIFA. From that moment Platini’s activity in world football ended and even today the French champion is outside the football environment.
At the end of this great footballer’s story, it can be said that he was one of the strongest ever seen on football fields, who left an important mark both as a footballer and as a manager. His football intelligence was at the service of the teams where he played, but it also served behind a desk, where he contributed profoundly to changing the football system in the 2000s.