FourFourTwo's 100 Greatest Footballers EVER: No.12, Michel Platini

Michel Platini

A playmaker and prolific goalscorer all at once, Platini was Europe’s best player of the 1980s

One of the most elegant midfielders in history, Michel Platini was deadly in front of goal, and possessed the mentality of a winner. That enabled him to excel everywhere he went, and to produce what was arguably the greatest ever individual performance at an international tournament when he led France to Euro 84 triumph on home soil with nine goals in five matches.

Platini started his career at Nancy, flourished as a 19-year-old in the 1974/75 season by helping them win promotion from the second division, and never looked back. In 1979 he moved to Saint-Etienne, the most powerful Ligue 1 club at the time, and won the title in 1981.

Upon joining Juventus in 1982, Platini became the best player in Serie A, winning two league championships and scoring the only goal in the tragic 1985 European Cup Final against Liverpool in Brussels.

Tangled up in Bleus

Platini’s best games were saved for his national team, however, with whom he fronted of one of the best midfield trios ever alongside Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana. They came close at the 1982 World Cup, before dramatically losing to West Germany on penalties in the semi-final.

Two years later, Platini was absolutely unstoppable during the Euros, scoring two hat-tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia in the group stage, and eventually deciding the final against Spain with a free-kick.

That goal was scored thanks to disastrous mistake by the Spanish keeper Luis Arconada, but Platini is widely remembered as one of the most prolific dead-ball specialists ever. He was one of the first players to score with low shots below the wall, when opponents jumped to prevent him from curling the ball above them.

Platini was the brightest star in the world back then, winning three Ballon d'Ors consecutively in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Football lovers cried with him when France lost in the World Cup semi-finals again in 1986.

A year later, he retired at the age of 32. It seemed a premature, cruel decision to the millions who got joy from watching him play.

Michel Platini

Career highlight
Platini considered France’s 3-2 semi-final win against Portugal at Euro 84 as the best game he played in. He scored the dramatic extra-time winner after 119 minutes.

4:30 for that goal in the video below

The list

100 to 91 • 90 to 81 • 80 to 71 • 70 to 61 • 60 to 51 • 50 to 41 • 40 to 31 • 30 to 21

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FourFourTwo's 100 Greatest Footballers EVER