Platini: International stage must take priority

PARIS - UEFA president Michel Platini, shocked by players saying they would rather win the Champions League than the World Cup, said on Tuesday it was time to concentrate on reviving the status of international football.

The former France playmaker, who earlier in the day started a new four-year term as leader of European football's ruling body after being re-elected unopposed, told Reuters in an interview that international football must take priority.

Slouched in an armchair and clearly tired after a long day, Platini said that during his career he never heard of a player abandoning his national team commitments to focus on club football.

"No, never," he said. "I remain very surprised two players have said they would rather win the Champions League," he added without naming any individuals.

"We have to do something, it's not good for football."

In his first four years as president Platini has carried out his promises to keep the Champions League open to clubs from smaller countries and force the bigger teams to live within their financial means.

He also said on Tuesday the region had enough strength in depth to expand Euro 2016 to 24 teams and said tiny nations like San Marino and Andorra had the same right to take part in international competitions as the bigger countries.

"Twenty-four teams is good, we have enough quality for that," Platini explained.

"We had 16 in 2008 and there were no British teams, there was no Belgium, no Serbia, no Finland and Norway and that means we have about 10 teams at the same standard as the ones who qualified."


Platini added that reducing the number of domestic club competitions could help to prevent overcrowding the calendar.

"It is not easy but we have to find a solution one day," he said. "The calendar is the basis of everything... you can't play every day."

The existing calendar runs until 2014 and the following, which has yet to be drawn up, will run for another four years.

Although European Championship and World Cup qualifiers are plagued by one-sided matches, Platini rejected the suggestion UEFA's smallest nations should be forced to play in a preliminary round.

"I don't want that because San Marino is a country and the people of San Marino have the right to see France play," he said, citing the two as an example.

"I work for the development of football and seeing the best players in your country in a stadium is part of the love and development of football."

Platini also criticised the rules of world soccer's governing body FIFA over naturalisation, which allows players to represent one country at under-21 level before changing allegiance as a senior.

"It's very complicated, Europe lost the fight - we lost but it's a decision we didn't support," he said.

In an earlier news conference Platini said he was fed up of the crowd violence which has plagued some Eastern European countries.

"I'm sick of it, hooligans, vandalism, everything," he said. "I'm sick of the fact people can't go safely to a stadium."