Michel Platini has insisted he remains the best man to run world football despite his ongoing suspension from the game.
The UEFA president has been banned while a £1.3million payment he received from FIFA is investigated.
That has thrown into doubt his eligibility to stand in February’s election to replace Sepp Blatter, who has also been suspended by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. Platini is one of seven candidates in the race but will only be on the ballot in February if his ban is lifted.
However, Platini insisted he would not be thrown off course.
“I am, in all humility, the most able to run world football,” he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
Asked if he felt the suspension was part of a bid to scupper his candidacy, Platini said: “As far as I’m concerned, there is manifestly a disproportion between the facts that I am accused of and the extent of the provisional suspension I have been hit with.
“This suspension prevents me from campaigning and fighting on an equal footing. It clouds what is really at stake in this election for the future of world football.
“Even if I cannot go out campaigning, I fully consider myself a candidate,” he added. “Today, I have the sense of being a knight from the Middle Ages, in front of a castle. I am trying to get in to bring football back, but instead I’m having boiling oil poured on my head.”
Platini was suspended earlier this month when it emerged that he had been paid £1.3million by FIFA in 2011 for work completed nine years earlier.
However, Platini insisted everything about the payment – which was made three months before a FIFA presidential election in which Platini opted not to challenge Blatter – was above board and properly handled.
“The two million (Swiss Francs) represents the equivalent of four years’ salary arrears that FIFA owed me when I was the president’s special adviser. The president himself offered me a contract and a salary that I accepted,” he said.
“So to be clear: was there work provided? Yes. Is an oral contract legal in Switzerland? Yes. Did I have the right to reclaim my money even nine years later? Yes. Did I produce a proper invoice as FIFA required? Yes. Was the money declared to the taxman? Yes.”
Asked directly about claims that the payment was effectively a bribe to keep him from standing in 2011, Platini said: “These other allegations are not based on anything.”
He also played down the idea that Blatter’s decision to pay him so soon before the election was effectively a trap.
“I don’t want to believe in conspiracy theories,” he said. “Yes, I have waited a long time to reclaim what I was owed. But the only mistake is that I let several years go by.
“I had faith in the word of the FIFA president and I knew he would pay me one day. I was lucky enough not to need the money, but just because I don’t need the money doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be paid for my work.”