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)
Updated 21 April 2017

Blatter says Platini could make comeback

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.

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”