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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 19, 2007

Johansson steps up war of words with Platini

Lennart Johansson has promised to retain the current format of the Champions League if re-elected as UEFA president - and issued a veiled attack on Michel Platini, his rival in next week's election.

In his final rallying call exactly a week ahead of what is expected to be a close-run vote in Dusseldorf among UEFA'S 52 national associations, Johansson claimed there was no reason to change Europe's premier club competition, accusing Platini of lacking experience.

The former three-time European footballer of the year has targeted fairer distribution of Champions League places as one of his main vote-garnering ideas, giving smaller nations more representation by restricting the top-ranked nations like England, Italy and Spain to three spots each.

This has infuriated the Premier League, who would lose their automatic fourth spot, but Johansson claimed he would not be going down the same road.

'I am not going to make any changes in a competition that is given high praise, I see no reason,' he said.

'You should ask Platini why he wants to change such a success story. The Champions League is sent by television all over the world and many sports have tried to copy it.'

Johansson, in fighting mood as he addressed the media for the last time ahead of the vote, said he needed to be re-elected 'to keep the family together.'

If Platini beats the 77-year-old Swede, he has threatened to centralise his power base by installing himself as a working president at UEFA headquarters.

But Johansson insisted this was the wrong way to run the organisation, hinting there was a danger Platini, regarded by sceptics as too radical, might let power go to his head.

'I have worked hard to achieve certain goals, one of which is to develop the president's role as a leader and a man of consensus who listens before taking decisions and does not interfere in the day-to-day running of the organisation,' the Swede said.

'I believe my approach has helped UEFA achieve many of its goals and is the right approach for the future.'