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French soccer star Michel Platini won three straight Ballon d'Or Awards as a player before becoming president of the Union of European Football Associations.
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Born on June 21, 1955, in Joeuf, France, Michel Platini began his professional soccer career with AS Nancy in 1972. He won three straight Ballon d'Or Awards while playing for Italy's Juventus FC in the 1980s, and led France to back-to-back semifinal appearances in the World Cup. After retiring in 1987, Platini became a coach and held several executive posts until he was elected UEFA president in 2007.
"Creating and scoring goals is what football is all about. It is also my philosophy in life."
Michel François Platini was born on June 21, 1955, in Joeuf, France. His father, Aldo, was a professional soccer player who became a director of the AS Nancy club, and young Platini sought to follow in his footsteps. He joined the AS Joeuf youth team as an 11-year-old, and landed with Nancy as a reserve at age 17.
Platini developed into a prominent player for Nancy, using his impressive passing and free-kick skills to spark the club to the Ligue 2 championship in 1975. He helped France reach the quarterfinals at the Olympics the following year, and was named French Footballer of the Year in 1976 and '77.
Considered a key member of the 1978 French World Cup team, Platini was blamed when Les Bleus were bounced in the first round. The midfielder rebuilt his reputation after joining AS Saint-Étienne in 1979, where he won a Ligue 1 championship, and his strong play during France's run to the 1982 World Cup semifinals erased any negative feelings about his capabilities.
Platini's career pinnacle came following his move to Italian powerhouse Juventus FC in 1982. He led the Old Lady to the Italian Cup championship in his first season, earning him the first of three straight Ballon d'Or Awards. After Juventus claimed the 1984 Serie A title, Platini delivered an unforgettable performance for the French team in the 1984 European Championships, twice notching a "perfect hat trick" (a goal scored with both feet and the head) en route to an incredible nine goals in five games.
Platini netted the lone goal in the 1985 European Cup final victory over Liverpool at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, but the victory was marred by the horrific deaths of 39 fans from a pregame stampede. Platini was criticized for celebrating his goal in such a somber environment, though he insisted the players didn't understand the magnitude of the day's events.
After helping Juventus notch another league title in 1986, Platini returned to Les Bleus for one more run at World Cup glory. Featuring the talented "Carré Magique" (Magic Square) midfield of Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Luis Fernandez, France treated fans to a beautiful display of team soccer until bowing out again in the semifinals.
Platini retired in 1987 at age 32, finishing with 312 goals in 580 career club matches and a then-record 41 goals over 79 international appearances for France.
Platini took over as national team coach in 1988 and led France through an impressive stretch of undefeated play, but stepped down when the team lost in the first round of the 1992 European Championships.
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