Spanish football boss to run for UEFA top job

Spanish football boss to run for UEFA top job
Angel Maria Villar. Photo: AFP
Spain's football association said on Tuesday that its boss Angel Maria Villar would seek to replace the banned Michel Platini as the president of UEFA, the third official candidate for the top job.

“Angel Maria Villar has made official his candidacy for the next elections for the UEFA presidency,” the Royal Spanish Football Association said in a brief statement of the vote that takes place in September.

Villar is the third person to announce their candidacy after Slovenian football association boss Aleksander Ceferin and Dutch football chief Michael Van Praag.

Platini announced his resignation on May 9th after a sports tribunal rejected his final appeal against a four-year ban over a suspect two million Swiss francs ($2 million, €1.8 million) payment he received from world football's governing body FIFA.

The election for the coveted post takes place in Athens on September 14th.

The current vice-president of UEFA and FIFA, Villar – who has headed up Spain's association since 1988 – is as well-known in the country as he is controversial.

His internal knowledge of the organisation could play in his favour in the September vote, and according to Spanish media reports, he may have decided to run for the job knowing that he has the support he needs within UEFA to get the post.

The 66-year-old former international midfielder has run the organisation on an interim basis since Platini resigned, and he handed over the trophy to Portugal at Euro 2016.

But as football attempts to renovate its image following corruption scandals in FIFA and UEFA, his association with the “old guard” may hurt his chances.

Last year, FIFA fined him 25,000 Swiss francs and gave him a warning for his failure to co-operate with investigations into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

He has also had an ongoing battle with Javier Tebas, the head of the Spanish league, since the latter launched corruption allegations against Villar related to the expenses of employees and family members of the association that were subsequently dismissed.

Villar had an international playing career, representing Spain 22 times and making over 350 appearances in a 10-year spell with Athletic Bilbao.

However, his playing career is most remembered for a punch on the late three-time World Player of the Year Johan Cruyff in 1975.

Off the field, though, he has gained greater notoriety.

He has won six straight presidential elections to remain as the figurehead of Spanish football and overseen the most successful period in the Spanish national team's history in winning the 2010 World Cup and 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

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