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Michel Platini: The king of the European Championships

The younger generation might only remember Michel Platini for his controversial time as the UEFA president. But in the seventies and eighties, the Frenchman lit up football as a quick, elegant, and intelligent attacking midfielder for AS Nancy, Saint-Étienne, Juventus and the French national team. In 1984, Platini carried Les Blues in a way that no other footballer has ever done in a European Football Championship. 

Michel Platini

On June 21st 1955, in a small commune in the North of France, one of the greatest footballers of all time was born: Michel François Platini. When he eventually made his debut for AS Nancy, a club owned by his father Aldo, not many expected Platini to have the career he has had. Let alone lead France to their first-ever international trophy. 

France hosted the European Football Championships in 1984. At the time, only eight countries qualified for the tournament, which meant that some big footballing countries missed out on a spot. Denmark, who knocked out England in the qualifiers, and reigning champions West Germany were seen as contenders, but France were the strong favourites on home soil. 

Nine goals

Les Blues were in excellent form leading up to the tournament, but most importantly they were captained by Ballon d’Or holder Michel Platini. The expectations were high, but France delivered. In the group stage’s first match against Denmark, Platini scored the only goal in a 1-0 win in Parc des Princes. A few days later, the creative midfielder scored a hattrick in his country’s 5-0 win against Belgium, followed by another hattrick in their 3-2 win against Yugoslavia. 

A dramatic semifinal followed against Portugal. France were expected to walk all over their opponents and qualify for the final, but that was far from the truth. With only six minutes of extra time remaining, Portugal led the match 1-2. France made a remarkable comeback and in the last minute of extra time, Platini scored the winner to fire his country to the final.  

Four days later Platini would cement his place as the king of the European Football Championships with another goal in the final against Spain (2-0). Platini scored nine out of France’s fourteen goals in just five games, which makes him the record goalscorer in a single European Championship. Even though the competition consists of more games now, no footballer has come close to scoring nine goals in the tournament. 

Life after football

In 1987, Platini retired from football. A year later, he became the manager of the French national team until 1992. He also co-organized the 1998 World Cup in France. In 2007, he was elected president of the UEFA, a position he held nine years before being banned from any football-related activity for corruption. Previously, he was also the chairman of FIFA’s Technical and Development Committee and vice-president of the French Football Federation.