Thursday May 15 2014
Platini ‘understands Conte’s stress’

Michel Platini ‘understands Antonio Conte’s stress’, defends Serie A and compares Mario Balotelli to Eric Cantona.

Juventus are going through an uncertain moment amid their Coach’s continued hints that this may be the end of his three-year spell in charge of the side.

Whilst Conte has won three consecutive Scudetti, one club legend in Platini has offered his support to his consideration to leave.

“I understand his stress, today it is much greater than in the past,” the UEFA President has commented to Tuttosport today.

“[Giovanni] Trapattoni was there for 10 years, but he had less stress because I and other champions were also there.”

Part of the pressure on Conte has been Juve’s failure to replicate their domestic dominance on the international field.

Champions League group stage elimination to Galatasaray, however, was partly blamed on Platini, for UEFA allowing their matchday six match on a weather-beaten pitch to be played.

“Honestly, I do not know why you are taking it up with me. That field was difficult for both teams,” responded the 58-year-old, who the day after Juve’s elimination was on Tuttosport’s front page with the headline ‘Merci Michel’.

“If Juventus cannot beat Galatasaray, what is it to with me? You do not dare to criticise Juventus and so you take it up with the UEFA President who is far away…

“I remember with Juventus when we played Liverpool in the European Super Cup in 1985, the field was tough, but we won…no?

“But, I am alright, because professionally the criticism is correct, and then I understand everything, I understand that this is a game, I understand the needs of the parties and then, if after 30 years here in Italy I am still worthy of a front page, it is a great satisfaction.

“Those who don’t make the front pages don’t count, right?

“Am I sorry Juve didn’t reach the Europa League Final? It is the field that decides. It is a long and difficult path, those who arrive in the final deserve it, for sure. Benfica and Sevilla were very good.

“49 minutes of actual play in their semi-final second leg? That is a little, yes. For me, it matters a lot because I was among those who in 1990 were part of a task force which introduced new rules on the back-pass to the goalkeeper, the red card for last man fouls and that play was distributed all around the field.

“Since then, many things have changed and we brought up the playing time to 60-65 effective minutes per game.

“Now, if Juve-Benfica was only 49 minutes, well, that’s an exception. The Portuguese were smart? They played their game.”

The three-time Ballon d’Or winner was asked about Serie A and whether it has lost its appeal.

“I watch the games and I do not care about appeal. This year I enjoyed it - there was a very strong Juventus, Roma played well, Fiorentina and Napoli too.

“Certainly, if you say to me that the stadiums, apart from Juventus’, are ugly, then I agree, but when it comes to football, Calcio remains at the highest level.”

Platini commented also on Zinedine Zidane’s reported desire to step into management.

“If I did, then they can all do it! But no, it’s not true, I was the national team Coach and that is different.

“Seriously I believe so, he seems to me to be very involved and willing to do something great. Zizou can begin.”

France’s young midfield talent Paul Pogba continues to see discussion over his long-term future at Juventus, in spite of indicating contract talks with the club will start up again in the summer.

“Nowadays these players have the power to do what they want, do I do not know.

“Of course it should be remembered that it was Juventus who made him great, even if for great money they sold him and everyone was happy.”

Platini also considered Italy’s dilemma with the enigmatic Mario Balotelli.

“I had more or less the same thing with Eric Cantona [when France Coach] - he was a crazy mind, but for me he was the strongest striker then playing.

“If he helps you to win games then you have to play him and try to make him better. If you do not win, you send him away.”