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Blatter says Platini could make comeback

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures as he gives an interview to news agencies on in Zurich on Friday. (AFP)
ZURICH: Ex-FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Friday that a comeback was possible for his former ally Michel Platini, declining to hit back after the Frenchman savaged him in an interview last month.
Blatter said that Platini’s name may be cleared by “new elements” concerning the infamous two million Swiss franc payment ($2 million, €1.9 million) that triggered both men’s ouster from football.
“I think he should be back and I think it is not all over,” Blatter said, suggesting that former UEFA boss Platini could again take charge of the European confederation, or even FIFA.
Blatter is currently serving a six-year ban from football over the payment he authorized to Platini in 2011. Platini’s suspension was cut to four years on appeal.
The pair are united in claiming the transaction was legitimate, but bitter words have been swapped since details of the payment emerged in September 2015.
Blatter says he met with US Department of Justice officials and is not a suspect in their investigation of corruption linked to FIFA.
“I was never a person of interest or under scrutiny by the American justice. Never.”
Blatter’s most recent contact “with lawyers from the US Justice Department” was several months ago in Switzerland and was also attended by FIFA legal representatives, he says.
Blatter says: “I have been investigated in two or three matters but it’s no wrongdoing. So the only case which is pending for me is the Swiss case.”
Swiss federal prosecutors have also questioned Blatter, though he says “clarification” in their broader FIFA investigation and not related to a criminal proceedings opened against him in September 2015.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde last month, Platini called Blatter “the biggest egoist I’ve ever seen in my life.
“He always said I would be his last scalp,” the former Juventus star said of Blatter.
Platini, 61, claimed there was a campaign to “destroy” him waged by Blatter loyalists inside FIFA.
Blatter on Friday expressed confusion over Platini’s harsh tone.
“If he sees me as an egoist, I accept ... but I helped him become president of UEFA in 2007 and we had good relations, so I don’t understand his attitude. Saying I wanted to harm him doesn’t hold up,” Blatter, 81, told AFP.
Both claim the payment was compensation for consulting work Platini did for FIFA between 1998 and 2002.
There has been media speculation that Blatter approved the money a decade later to buy Platini’s support for his reelection as FIFA president.
There have also been suggestions that Marco Villiger, a close associate of Blatter and a FIFA legal director, leaked details of the controversial payment to Swiss prosecutors, who have ongoing criminal probe into the case.
Separately, Blatter took a jibe at the signature achievement of his successor Gianni Infantino, branding the new FIFA president’s 48-team World Cup a dangerous move.
Infantino eagerly wanted to expand the cash-cow tournament beyond its current 32-team format, and has secured support from FIFA’s powerful Council for a larger competition in 2026.
The council has endorsed a format of 16 groups, each with three teams.
“To play in groups by three is not recommendable,” Blatter said. “One team is always a spectator.”
When a nation has no chance of moving on, “arrangements… could be done,” Blatter continued.
Blatter’s FIFA tenure ended in spectacular disgrace, after US prosecutors opened corruption probes against dozens of his top allies in world football.
He remains the target of an investigation in his native Switzerland over criminal mismanagement.