Platini primed to take over from Blatter
Michel Platini is being groomed to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president in four years' time, according to ESPNsoccernet sources within football's corridors of power.
Blatter has been in control of world football for 13 years, and plans to stay for a further four, and then back UEFA president Platini for the role after standing down. That will be in return for Platini backing him in this summer's election - uniting Europe's vote behind Blatter against Mohamed Bin Hammam.
An ESPNsoccernet source said: "Of course Bin Hammam has the Asian vote, which is one third of the vote, but Blatter has his traditional stronghold of votes, which will make it tight, very tight, but a lot depends on Europe and Michel Platini.
"Europe will matter most in tipping the balance and there is a strong feeling that Blatter will gain the support of Platini and that Platini will then become Blatter's choice to succeed him in four years' time."
It has long been thought that the English Football Association would support any credible challenge to Blatter, in retribution for the abortive and humiliating defeat in the 2018 World Cup bid. There have been anonymous FA sources quoted, to that effect, in reliable news outlets.
It has emerged that, at the FA's Executive Board meeting just hours before Bin Hammam's announcement of his candidacy, the FA was playing a diplomatic game, and will not go against Blatter under new chairman David Berstein's careful international strategy.
When it was reported recently that the FA will back Bin Hammam, an email was dispatched to Blatter explaining that this was not the case. "It is a policy of sitting on the fence and seeing which way it goes," ESPNsoccernet was told.
Privately, the FA believes a change would be better than sticking with Blatter, but there is no chance that this will be FA policy.
Bin Hammam has openly been courting Platini's support and has previously stated that if he didn't run for the highest office in football he would support Platini. He was quoted as saying: "I told him that if he runs he'd have my full support. That remains the case. I am happy with [support in] most confederations but I don't know about Europe and how they will deal with my candidacy.
"Europe is the core of football. I would like now to make a real assessment in Europe."
The FIFA presidential election is due to take place in Zurich on June 1, with Blatter going for a fourth term as president, the position he has held since succeeding Joao Havelange in 1998. Blatter trounced UEFA president Lennart Johansson 111-80 at the FIFA Congress in Paris and succeeded Havelange who had retired after 24 years in the job.
The FA backed Blatter's presidency in 1998, but in 2003 supported Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, who was well beaten by Blatter with a landslide 139-56 vote victory. Analysis of the votes afterwards indicated that not all of Europe backed Johansson and Africa was split in its support of Hayatou.
The 61-year-old Bin Hammam is in danger of losing the vote against the 75-year-old Blatter, if Europe is persuaded to back Blatter.