LONDON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Lennart Johansson launched his campaign for a fifth and final term as UEFA president saying he has the experience for the job his French rival Michel Platini lacks.
The avuncular Swede, who has been UEFA president since 1990, says in his election manifesto entitled 'Securing A Legacy For the Future', that he still has a role to play and 'a real desire to complete my mission.'
'What you need is experience,' Johansson, who turns 77 on Sunday, told reporters at a briefing.
'I look at my track record and I am quite proud of it. I have the support of the FIFA president (Sepp Blatter) for this campaign and also the support of many countries who have asked me to stand again.
'Of course my age is something, but I think, like wine, it gets better as it gets older. But why give in when you are fit, able and keen to stay?'
But Blatter told Reuters that he 'was not backing anyone in the race' to become UEFA chief.
'What I did say to Lennart is that I do favour continuity in leadership and the way the organisation is run. But I also gave Mr Platini my blessing to run as well,' Blatter said in a phone interview.
Johansson said he has had two bouts of cancer in recent years but was now in excellent health.
'Nothing has shown up for five years,' he said, 'I've seen people of 54 who look old. But look at someone like (former FIFA president) Joao Havelange - he is 90 years old and still crystal clear.'
Johansson said he wanted to improve the corporate governance in the game, achieve better transparency in club football and for UEFA to take even more effective action on betting, match-fixing, doping and racism.
He also wants a new European-wide system of rules in place to regulate agents and end the abuses which have been identified in recent years.
'We still face many challenges in the game, and I have a commitment to leave a legacy for the future.'
While not directly criticising Platini, 51, Johansson spelled out why he should continue in the role he has occupied since 1990.
'I am not going to sit here and criticise Mr Platini,' he said. 'He is a colleague of mine on the Executive Committee, he was an excellent footballer who won many prizes.
'He has also coached his national team and organised the World Cup in France in 1998, but I have been chairman of the World Cup organising committee four times so I think I know a little about these things too.
'I'm more experienced, I know this business, I care for the problems of the 52 nations in UEFA. He has the experience on the pitch - but all of us are former players.
'Some were more talented than others, of course. I was a terrible player, but I have a lifelong love of the game and still go and see two matches a week when I can.'
Asked what he had brought to the game over the last 16 years, Johansson highlighted the development of the Champions League, which he said, had generated income of more than 5 billion euros ($6.38 billion) since it started in 1992.
'But I also stress my commitment to the grassroots of the game,' the Swede said.
Johansson added: 'I have accepted the requests of many in the global football family, including the FIFA president, to stand again, because I believe that a final term of office will allow me to truly secure a legacy for the future.
'At a time of challenge there is real merit in keeping the right course and seeing through the programme that began back in 1990. My work is not done yet. I have a real desire to complete my mission.
The election will take place during the UEFA Congress in Duesseldorf on Jan. 27 next year.