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Johansson confident of retaining UEFA top job

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15:39 CET+01:00
UEFA boss Lennart Johansson says he's confident of seeing off Michel Platini in the January 26 vote for the presidency of European football's governing body.

The sitting president, 77, speaking here on Friday, said: "Over the past couple of weeks I've met the heads of the leagues and national associations and I've been encouraged by their response.

"I'm confident, optimistic, and prepared."

The Swede, who called on FIFA president Sepp Blatter to remain neutral in the run-up to the vote in Dusseldorf, added: "It's a secret vote. That means people can say one thing and do another. That makes the situation more difficult to predict.

"But I know numerous federation presidents, both old and new ones, and if they vote as they've told me they're going to, and I have every reason to believe their word, I'll win."

Johansson took issue with a pledge in Platini's manifesto to cut back the number of teams from the main footballing powers competing in the Champions League.

"I won't be making any change to the competition which is appreciated by the players and clubs.

"I don't want to be impolite to a colleague on the executive committee (Platini). I've already asked him why he wants to introduce changes to this 'success story'.

"The Champions League is covered by numerous television stations around the world and there are a lot of sports that are trying to copy it."

The backbone of Johansson's manifesto has been the retention of UEFA's independence, and more teams in the European Championships.

He has also underlined UEFA's healthy financial status and has made a commitment to give national federations a one-off payment of 600,000 Swiss francs (481,000 dollars).

On the subject of outspoken FIFA boss Blatter's stance on the two candidates Johansson was forthright.

"It's not my role to criticise the FIFA president, but he has to stay neutral.

"He's always expressed his loyalty but he's made a few statements recently which he should have avoided.

"He should leave it up to us - to Platini and me - to have a fair fight."

Johansson has been infuriated by comments made by Blatter in Paris on Friday, stating that his "sympathy" lay with the 51-year-old Platini.

"Let's say I feel more of a footballer than a manager," said Blatter, who also got in a dig about the yawning 26-year age gap between the two candidates.

Johannson, who has been at pains to get across the message that he's back in perfect health after suffering serious illness, attacked what he termed Platini's lack of experience.

"The future is his, but he has to learn and gain in experience," said the man going for a fifth successive term of office.

Johannson received backing Friday from the head of the German Football federation.

"A change now at the top of UEFA would be unwelcome," Theo Zwanziger said.

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