Life is full of surprises for Michel Platini

Michel Platini is finished in soccer. Banned by a FIFA ethics committee from soccer for taking $2 million from FIFA years after he was supposed to have done the work, the Frenchman saw his suspension reduced from first eight years to six and then six years to four by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday, but it did not matter. He is leaving the sport in which he worked as a player, coach and administrator for more than 40 years after losing yet another appeal.

The son of Italian immigrants raised in the Lorraine region of France, where his family operated a cafe, the Bar des Sportifs, Platini became one of France's great sportsmen, leading the Bleus to the 1984 European Championship and becoming the only player to win three straight European Player of the Year (the old Ballon d'Or) awards in 1983-85 with Juventus. He later coached France to the Euro 1992 finals in Sweden after leading it to 19 games without a loss.

He didn't stick to coaching for long -- less than four years -- choosing to move into soccer administration, where he led France's successful bid to organize the 1998 World Cup and served as the organizing committee's co-president. In recent years, he was president of UEFA and the heir apparent to Sepp Blatter  as FIFA president until revelations of a deal between Blatter and Platini to pay the Frenchmen $2 million in 2011 shortly before Blatter's re-election that year.

Platini was not considered a bad leader -- and few considered him corrupt in the manner of so many of the other FIFA executives caught up in the scandals of the last year.

"He brought the clubs and UEFA together," David Gill, the British vice president on FIFA's executive committee and one its reform leaders, told the BBC. "He was an innovator. He had knowledge, ideas and personality. He surrounded himself with exceptional people at UEFA and had great relationships with the coaches. He was a man of humor and has a sense of fun. He was an excellent UEFA president, in my opinion."

But Platini had his blind spots. When FIFA executives were ordered to return the $25,000 watches given to them by Brazilian World Cup 2014 organizers -- only three, among them American Sunil Gulati, refused to accept them -- Platini insisted he didn't need to. "I'm a well-educated person," he said. "I don't return gifts."

Why did he take the money from Blatter? He insisted the agreement was legitimate -- he had worked for FIFA for four years as an adviser -- and in any event he said he didn't need the money. Then why take it?

Platini's lawyers insisted their client would win his appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But the three-person panel had a sharp rebuke for Platini. "The panel," the CAS statement read, "was not convinced by the legitimacy" of the payment.

"I accept today's decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport but I consider it a profound injustice," said Platini, still professing his innocence.

He said he was giving up his position as president of UEFA to pursue his fight before the Swiss courts.

"Life has always kept beautiful surprises for me," he noted. "Now, I am free to live them."
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