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Soccer Greats Remembered – Michel Platini

Posted on July 29, 2011 by Rod Crowley

Some soccer players are born great, some achieve greatness and some players have greatness thrust upon them – in the case of French soccer legend, Michel Platini it was all three.

After making his professional debut, just shy of his 18th birthday in 1973 for FC Nancy, the team his Italian father played for and later directed, Platini took a good year or two before making his presence and ability tell. He suffered an injury in his first full season, which saw Nancy relegated, but after returning to the side the following year, he became their most important player. That season, he scored 17 goals from midfield, many of them from free kicks, to ensure that Nancy went straight back up to the top flight of French soccer again, while at the same time capturing the attention of several of France’s bigger clubs as well as the French national side.

Platini was selected in the French squad to compete in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and although the French team did not achieve very much, Platini for reasons that remain spurious, because much of his personal play was outstanding, was made the scapegoat for the disappointing performances by the French fans. That situation was to come to a head the following season in an away game against St Etienne whose fans jeered Platini throughout the match until he was replaced after suffering an ankle injury.

It was with some irony therefore when Platini, whose contract with Nancy had ended, signed for St Etienne a year later in 1979. Platini stayed with St Etienne for three years during which time they won the French League title in 1981 and were runners up in two French Cup Final. However, the success the club craved for, a win in the European Cup, was not forthcoming and Platini was allowed to leave in 1982 ; his destination was Italy to play for Juventus.

By the time Platini arrived at his new club, Italy had become the World Cup Champions after beating Germany in the final. However, the 1982 World Cup was for Platini a landmark where his performances for the French team remain forever in the memory and confirmed to the rest of the world that he was one of the best players around. Interestingly, Platini has often said that his fondest playing memory was the defeat after a penalty shoot-out with Germany in the 1982 World Cup semi final, which remains a game that ranks high as one of the best ever World Cup encounters. Germany won through to the final but only after good fortune allowed them back into a game when they were 3-1 down to France. An outrageous foul committed by German goalkeeper, Schumacher on Patrick Battiston, should have resulted in a penalty for France and a red card for Schumacher but the referee failed to call either which ultimately cost the French team the game. The game overall however will be remembered for the brilliance of Platini, who scored the opening French goal and was involved in virtually everything positive that happened for France in the game.

It was in that World Cup that the famous “Carre magique” (magic square) was first recorded in honour of the four Superb French midfielders from who it was constituted, Platini, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez.

Platini continued his great play in Italy and was soon to be rewarded with the international success his services demanded. In 1984, the French team, still very much under Platini’s captaincy lifted the European Championship in 1984 with Platini once again hugely influential in proceedings. Platini in fact scored nine of France’s fourteen goals, including two hat tricks, he won the award for the tournament’s best player and he also later won the coveted European player of the Year Trophy plus the FIFA award for the World’s Best player.

At club level with Juventus, Platini won a whole host of accolades and trophies, including The European Cup in 1985, Serie A Champions in both 1984 & 1986, and the European Cup Winners Cup in 1984. He also finished top scorer in Serie A in his very first season, an incredible achievement for a midfielder in a league that was renowned for its uncompromising defences.

Those years at Juventus were the best of his career, he achieved further success at both club and international level, winning a second FIFA world player of the year and he guided France to yet another World Cup semi final, where they lost, once again to West Germany. He retired from international soccer in 1987 after making 72 appearances for his country, 49 of them as captain and from which he scored a then record of 41 goals.

Platini is currently the president of UEFA, the European arm of UEFA and continues his long standing legacy in the game. There is no doubting that Platini is the best ever soccer player from France but is also considered to be amongst the best ever to have played the game alongside the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Eusebio and Frank Beckenbauer.

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