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UEFA-nominee Platini 'would keep Champions League'

PARIS, May 16 (Reuters) - Former French soccer great Michel Platini has denied that he would scrap the Champions League if he is elected UEFA president next year.

Platini, speaking to Reuters in an interview on the eve of the Champions League final between Barcelona and Arsenal in the French capital, said he had changed his mind on European club competition reforms.

The three-times winner of the European Footballer of the Year award had previously advocated an end to a league format and a return to a purely knock-out competition for Europe's premier club tournament, but with 256 teams.

However, Platini told Reuters: "I would not change the Champions League. It would remain the same basic format though I would like to see some changes in the qualification system."

Platini said he wanted more countries represented in the 32-team group stage and thought it was wrong for the major nations such as Spain, England and Italy to have as many as four teams taking part.

"My problem is that there are not enough representatives for the other nations. Smaller countries also need these matches to develop.

"However, before making any changes I would consult everyone. This would not be a personal decision only."

Platini, a member of both the FIFA and UEFA executives and a vice-president of the French Football Federation, confirmed he would definitely stand for the presidency of European soccer's governing body next year.

If elected, he would become the first prominent former player to hold the top post in a major international governing body.

Platini withdrew his candidature for the last election in 2002 when sitting president Lennart Johansson of Sweden decided to stand again.

Johansson, president since 1990 and now 76 years old, has said he would retire though he recently indicated he could decide to stand again if there were no other suitable candidates.

Platini told Reuters he would stand against Johansson this time should the president run again.

But the former Juventus midfielder declined to elaborate on his policies and said he had agreed with Johansson not to do any campaigning until after the World Cup finals which open in Germany on June 9.

Platini also declined to comment on the problems besetting his former club Juventus, this season's Italian champions who face possible relegation if match-fixing allegations are proved.