ZURICH, Switzerland – Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says it is possible for his former ally Michel Platini to make a comeback in the organisation, declining to hit back after the Frenchman savaged him in an interview last month.
Blatter said that Platini's name may be cleared by "new elements" concerning the infamous two million Swiss franc payment ($2 million, 1.9 million euros) that triggered both men's ousting from football.
"I think he should be back and I think it is not all over," Blatter said, suggesting that former UEFA boss Platini could again take charge of the European confederation, or even FIFA.
Blatter is currently serving a six-year ban from football over the payment he authorised to Platini in 2011. Platini's suspension was cut to four years on appeal.
The pair are united in claiming the transaction was legitimate, but bitter words have been swapped since details of the payment emerged in September 2015.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde last month, Platini called Blatter "the biggest egoist I've ever seen in my life.
"He always said I would be his last scalp", the former Juventus star said of Blatter.
Platini, 61, claimed there was a campaign to "destroy" him waged by Blatter loyalists inside FIFA.
Blatter on Friday expressed confusion over Platini's harsh tone.
"If he sees me as an egoist, I accept ... but I helped him become president of UEFA in 2007 and we had good relations, so I don't understand his attitude. Saying I wanted to harm him doesn't hold up," Blatter, 81, said.
Both claim the payment was compensation for consulting work Platini did for FIFA between 1998 and 2002.
There has been media speculation that Blatter approved the money a decade later to buy Platini's support for his reelection as FIFA president.
There have also been suggestions that Marco Villiger, a close associate of Blatter and a FIFA legal director, leaked details of the controversial payment to Swiss prosecutors, who have ongoing criminal probe into the case.
Separately, Blatter took a jibe at the signature achievement of his successor Gianni Infantino, branding the new FIFA president's 48-team World Cup a dangerous move.
Infantino eagerly wanted to expand the cash-cow tournament beyond its current 32-team format, and has secured support from FIFA's powerful Council for a larger competition in 2026.
The council has endorsed a format of 16 groups, each with three teams.
"To play in groups by three is not recommendable," Blatter said. "One team is always a spectator."
When a nation has no chance of moving on, "arrangements .. could be done," Blatter continued.
Blatter's FIFA tenure ended in spectacular disgrace, after US prosecutors opened corruption probes against dozens of his top allies in world football.
He remains the target of an investigation in his native Switzerland over criminal mismanagement.
The same US ivestigation saw former Costa Rican football chief Eduardo Li was banned from football for life over bribery and corruption on Friday.
The ban handed down by FIFA's independent ethics committee and was triggered by Li's guilty plea to racketeering in the United States