Three times European Footballer of the year and probably the best footballer to have been produced by his country, Michel Platini led France to two World Cup semi-finals and to the title during the 1984 European Championship. With Juventus he won the 1985 edition of the European Cup. One of the greatest passers of the ball in the history of the game, Platini was an archetypical #10, who orchestrated attacks, scored his share of goals, and was also a master of the free-kick, a skill which he perfected using a row of dummies during training.
Platini grew up in Joeuf, a small town in the north-east of France. The son of a football coach, he took up the game at a young age, playing his first official match at the age of nine years old. With French football in the doldrums during the sixties and early seventies, as a youngster Platini idolised Johan Cruyff and the Ajax team he was the star of.
Platini got his start at Nancy, making his debut at the age of seventeen, and establishing himself as a regular in the seasons that followed. Platini helped the club capture the French Cup in 1978, scoring the winning goal in the final against Nice, before moving on to Saint Etienne. With Les Verts
he won the French league in 1981.
Michel Platini on the ball against Denmark during Euro 1984
By that time it had become apparent to the footballing world that, two decades after the heydays of Raymond Kopa, France had finally been able to produce another world class player. Making his international debut in 1976, Platini helped France qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958. The team failed to progress beyond the first round during the 1978 World Cup, and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 1980 European Championship, but at the 1982 World Cup Platini's reputation as the rising star of European Football was sealed. With two goals and two assists, the French captain made a significant contribution to Les Bleus
reaching the semi-final. France crashed out on a penalty shoot-out against West Germany, after a match that is remembered as a World Cup classic.
For all the praise he received for his performance during the tournament, at the age of 26 years old Platini's haul of silverware was hardly impressive, with only two domestic trophies to his name. That was about to change as reigning Italian champions Juventus decided that the French star was the perfect player to lead their attack. The move to Juventus in the summer of 1982 was a homecoming of sorts for the descendant of Italian immigrants, but mostly it was an opportunity to perform on a bigger stage than the French league. It was a decision neither party would not come to regret, as Platini went on lead Juventus to a string of trophies starting with the Italian Cup in 1983, and the European Cup Winners Cup, the European Super Cup, and the Italian Championship in 1984.
Michel Platini in action for Juventus against AS Roma
Despite nominally being a midfielder, Platini scored no less than 68 goals in 147 league games for Juventus, and was crowned top scorer of the Serie A on three occasions. Platini's remarkable goalscoring prowess was never more apparent, than at Euro 1984. Platoche
, as he had affectionately become known, scored an European Championship record number of nine goals in five matches, including hat-tricks against Yugoslavia and Belgium. Platini's performance that summer stands as an unequaled display of individual class during an European Championship. It gave French football it's first international trophy in history and firmly established Platini's reputation as the best European footballer of his generation. Platini would be voted European footballer of the year in 1983, 1984, and 1985, making him the first player since Johan Cruyff to receive that honour three times.
Back at Juventus, Platini led the Italian side to the final of the the European Cup for the second time in three years. The 1983 final had surprisingly been lost to Hamburger SV, but this time a 1-0 victory over Liverpool saw Juve
win the European Cup for the first time in the club's history. Platini even scored the winning goal from the penalty-spot, after Zbigniew Boniek had been brought down in the box. Sadly the victory was completely overshadowed by the Heizel tragedy, in which 39 Juventus-fans lost their lives. Platini would later describe that night as his biggest disappointment in football.
Juventus captured the Intercontinental Cup later that year, beating Argentinos Juniors on penalties after a 2-2 draw. The next season Platini led the club to the Italian Championship for the second time, before setting off for Mexico to compete in his third World Cup with the French national team.
Michel Platini scores the winning goal during the 1985 European Cup Final
In Mexico the best European footballer of the eighties found himself upstaged by Diego Maradona, who used the tournament to underscore his status as the best player of his generation. Just like four years earlier, the 1986 World Cup saw France reach the semi-final. Platini turned in some strong performances, but wasn't fully fit and failed to reproduce the rampaging performance that had seen him lead France to the European title two years earlier. After victories over Italy and Brazil, it was West-Germany that, once again, stood in the way of a place in the final for France.
The following season was a disappointing one. Juventus failed to make an impact on the European Cup and also found itself unable to win a domestic trophy. Although he had only just reached the age of 32, Platini decide to call it quits that summer. After his retirement as a player he was France's national manager for four years. But although the team notched up a 19-match unbeaten run, earning Platini praise, they failed to perform when it really mattered. Platini stepped down after France's first-round elimination during Euro 1992. Since then he's been active as a sports official and has held various functions. In 2007 Platini was elected president of UEFA, ousting Lennart Johansson by 27 votes to 23.