The opener – VII, Michel Platini

It’s a very big dilemma whoever was the biggest footballer of all time when talking about France: Michel Platini or Zinedine Zidane? For me, “Zizou” is The King of football, but many think that the actual president of UEFA was one of the best and surely the most important French player. Platini is, without a doubt, also the man that influenced decisively the European Championship from 1984, which France eventually won. The first international title of his country came because Platini scored nine goals in five matches, a record that remained to our days. In fact, his nine goals from than still mean that he is the player with the most goals scored at European Championships! And he played at a single tournament! A tournament that begun on 12 June 1984 with the victory of France, on home soil, against Denmark, 1-0 with a goal scored in the 78th minute, of course, by Platini. The first of the competition!

After this match, Platini became better and better and scored two hat-tricks in the group stage, one against Belgium and one against Yugoslavia, and two goals, one each in the semi-final against Portugal and in the last act in front of Spain. He scored in all the matches and so the fans from Marseille, Paris, Nantes and Saint Etienne could witness live his masterpieces. So, first international trophy for France, the top-scorer title for the midfielder and also best man of the competition. Impressive! But Michel had than 29 years and was in top form. Even though he participated at three World Cups (1978, 1982, 1986) he reached the best performance at the last one, at 31 years old. That meant France finished 3rd in the competition, a great performance by that time. Born on 21st of June 1955 at Joeuf, Platini played at the national team 11 years, from 1978 to 1987, in 72 matches and scored 41 goals. After his retirement he coached his national team four years (1988-1992) but hadn’t the same success as a player.

And speaking of the player career we shouldn’t omit that the midfielder also had great achievements at club level. Platini only appeared at three clubs, starting Nancy, between 1972 and 1979. Here he won a promotion in 1975, after relegating only a season before, and, what’s more significant, he won the Coupe of France in 1978, the only major title of the squad, apart from the League Cup achieved in 2006. The total of seven seasons spent here meant the longest period of time spent at only one club. 213 matches played and 127 goals are quite numbers for a youngster that is only 24. So, the transfer to Saint Etienne came, one of the most popular teams from the Hexagon. Platini remained in the city from southern France for three seasons, in which he completed his CV with a Ligue 1 title, in 1981, but missed two French Cups in the last act: one in 1981 and one in 1982. Totally, he reached at Saint Etienne 145 matches, 82 goals and 27 years. It looked like is the moment to make the step at a powerful club outside his native country.

The club was Juventus and here, Platini spent the last five years of his career, which were, without a doubt, the most successful. Apart from the performances with the national squad, Michel won alongside the lads from Turin won seven titles and lost only one final, the European Champions’ Cup one from 1983. But he did rise this trophy above his head two years later. Before this he won an Italian Cup (1983), a Serie A title (1984, with the second in 1986), a Cup Winners’ Cup and a European Super Cup (both in 1984). The last achievement came in 1985: an Intercontinental Cup. Another international game in 1987 for France and after the retirement, those four years in charge of France and starting with 1992, a long period of a quiet life. To be more precise 15 years, until 2007, when he became UEFA president.

What I forget to tell you regarding his career in Italy is that he was so good in playing at Juve and in the national team at the same time, that between 1983 and 1985 he won three Golden Balls in a row! Johan Cruyff reached the same performance nearly a decade before, but Platini was the first man to win three such trophies in the row and his accomplishment stood still until 2011. It remained there even after this year, but the only difference is that he was equalized by Lionel Messi, who also rise over his head three Golden Balls. Michel can find a consolation in the fact that he is and probably will remain for a very long time, the only European to do so.

Photo sources: sportinel.com, capellaniaprimaria.blogspot.com, gqmagazine.fr, signora1897.com, dorigo.wordpress.com, michel-platini-guides.blogspot.com

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