GENEVA (AP) — Suspended by FIFA as the presidential election contest kicks off, Michel Platini insists he is still the best candidate to succeed Sepp Blatter.
"I am, in all humility, the most able to run world football," the former France great said in an interview published in Thursday editions of British and Swiss newspapers.
"People want to prevent me running because they know that I have every chance of winning," the UEFA president said, citing his career in soccer as "a journey I have achieved with honesty."
Platini pledged to take all steps to fight allegations of financial wrongdoing over his $2 million payment from FIFA funds approved by Blatter in 2011.
"I will go to the very end of all the sporting and legal processes to defend myself," said Platini, who faces appeal hearings at FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport while the FIFA ethics committee investigates.
Platini noted that FIFA's interim secretary general Markus Kattner — who was finance director in 2011 — processed his invoice to receive uncontracted extra salary for working as Blatter's personal adviser from 1998-2002.
Platini struck a defiant tone in the interview conducted in French and published in the Daily Telegraph in English, Le Matin in French and Tages Anzeiger in German.
Now in the four-month campaign period of the Feb. 26 election, the former front-runner cannot meet with power brokers and voters.
Four of the seven contenders — including UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino — met with African soccer leaders in Cairo this week while Platini stayed home in Switzerland.
"Even if I cannot go out campaigning, I fully consider myself a candidate," Platini said. "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 is waiting to challenge his 90-day initial suspension from duty at the FIFA appeals committee. A further appeal is possible at CAS.
FIFA's ethics committee aims to judge the full case this year. Sanctions can also be appealed to FIFA and CAS.
"So to be clear," Platini said. "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."
Blatter has cited a "gentlemen's agreement" for the extra salary. He is also suspended by FIFA after Switzerland's attorney general opened a criminal mismanagement case against him for.
"I was always assured that the payment had followed internal compliance rules at FIFA," Platini said, rebutting comments by Domenico Scala, FIFA's audit committee chairman since 2012, that accounts for nine years might have been falsified for not booking the unpaid $2 million.
Scala also chairs the FIFA election committee overseeing the integrity check Platini must pass to be an official candidate.
Platini dismissed a suggestion that former ally Blatter set a trap.
"I don't want to believe in conspiracy theories," Platini said. "I had faith in the word of the FIFA president and I knew he would pay me one day."