Sepp Blatter: Fifa, Michel Platini & who is in line for presidency

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Sepp Blatter: Watch the full interview

One of the more interesting aspects of my interview with Sepp Blatter earlier this week was his reluctance to discuss who should succeed him as Fifa president.

The election to appoint a new head of football's world governing body will take place on 26 February 2016.

Uefa president Michel Platini is the clear front-runner and has backing from many within the game, including the Football Association.

He is also believed to have secured promises of support from key voices in Asia, North America and South America.

The 60-year-old's record while a Fifa executive is certain to come under increased scrutiny in the weeks and months ahead.

But given the enmity that exists between Blatter and Platini it was a slight surprise that the 79-year-old Swiss resisted an opportunity to question the Frenchman's suitability for the top job.

"Don't ask the president who is elected to make a comment on the race to the presidency," Blatter told me.

"Let them go. Whoever. I don't mind. It is the congress who will decide, not me."

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Blatter versus Platini

That laissez-faire approach contrasts sharply with an interview Blatter gave to Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant earlier in August in which he said there was an anti-Fifa virus in Nyon [the Swiss town where Europe's governing body is based].

He also outlined in that interview how Platini had "changed" over the years and how the Frenchman had tried to "sideline" him at key events.

It's no secret the two men are professionally opposed to one another despite Platini, in his early years within football politics, being seen as a protege to Blatter.

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini
Uefa lodged a complaint against Fifa, claiming they published a document to disgrace Michel Platini's potential as the next Fifa president

Fifa insiders speak of how Blatter is still determined, despite his on-camera reticence, to stop Platini seizing the Fifa crown.

However, alleged attempts to engage in negative spin against the man, who has led Uefa since 2007, have been amateurish thus far.

Earlier this month a document entitled "Platini: Skeletons In The Closet" was circulated to one or more German language newspapers.

It outlines Platini's past, his support for the Qatar 2022 World Cup and overall paints an unflattering portrait of his suitability to be Fifa president.

A battle to control football's top job?

Uefa called it a "smear" campaign and lodged an official complaint with Fifa.

It has been claimed that one of the authors of the Platini document is a man called Thomas Renggli, who works in Blatter's executive office in Zurich.

According to Swiss paper Tages Anzeiger, Renggli said, when asked by them, that he contributed to the Platini document but refused to name his co-authors.

Did Blatter know that someone in his office was attempting to influence the election or, indeed, did he instruct Renggli to write the piece in the first place?

When I put it to him that his office was publishing such documents he shrugged and said: "You say it. I don't know that."

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Sepp Blatter's controversial career

"I care that people act accordingly to the ethics and the standards of discipline and respect," is all he would add when I pushed him on the matter.

Fifa refuse to comment on the situation other than to confirm an investigation is now under way.

Blatter says that he is simply an observer and happy to let Fifa's 209 member associations decide who will lead them into their uncertain future.

However, sources close to the election process have told BBC Sport they believe the outgoing president may be quietly backing a candidate for the top role.

Who else is in the running?

David Nakhid, the former captain of Trinidad and Tobago, has stated he intends to run as a candidate in the election.

Nakhid came to Europe in 1988 to play for Grasshoppers Zurich. It's reported that opportunity came about following a recommendation from Walter Gagg, a Fifa director and a close friend to Blatter.

It should be noted that there is no clear evidence of Blatter backing Nakhid thus far. But there is now an increasing belief among senior football figures that the Trinidadian will receive the five national association nominations required under electoral rules to be declared a valid candidate.

It has left many within world football questioning whether a man with such a low-profile, who has no experience in football politics, is now Blatter's preferred successor.

David Nakhid
David Nakhid made 35 appearances for Trinidad and Tobago between 1992 and 2005

Notably, the 51-year-old has stepped up his comments against Platini in recent days.

"Platini has been positioning himself as a reformer, but how can that be?" he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Those who are vying for the post should be scrutinised and looked at," he added.

"How can someone claim to be free or not tainted when he has been part of the circle that has basically brought football down a sorry path?"

He's not alone in questioning Platini's credentials. South Korea's Chung Mong-joon believes the Frenchman is unsuitable for the job.

His campaign is continuing on despite reports he is set to face disciplinary action from Fifa's ethics committee.

But who else will run?

South Africa's Tokyo Sexwale, a former prisoner in Apartheid-era South Africa, is still deliberating whether to stand but, as a formidable public speaker, would be a fascinating addition to the list of candidates.

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Prince Ali of Jordan: The man taking on Sepp Blatter

Meanwhile Prince Ali of Jordan is due to speak at an industry conference in Manchester in early September. That event may reveal more about his electoral intentions.

After polling 73 votes in May's election he has openly attacked Platini saying his candidacy is "not good for Fifa."

With Platini guaranteed to draw most or all of Ali's prior support it would appear that any quest by Ali to be elected in February will end in failure. However, it seems as if he will not exit the stage quietly.

On Friday Platini will answer questions from journalists for the first time since announcing his candidacy. He's due to speak in Monaco following Uefa's qualifying draw for the group stages of the Champions League.

As the October deadline for nominations starts to appear on the horizon, this election race is about to begin in earnest.