IT’S HARD TO believe, but there was a time when Michel Platini was more at ease in shorts and studs than tailored suits.
Opaque Kaka-esque bureaucracy is his current medium, but for over decade spanning the mid-Seventies and Eighties, the Frenchman defined the role of attacking midfielder for Saint-Étienne, Juventus and his national side. Mobile, shrewd and technically gifted, he was as at ease ghosting through defences as he was converting set pieces from improbable angles.
With that in mind, it’s hardly a surprise to find Platini’s name at the summit of a table listing the all-time top scorers at the UEFA European Championship. He’s a legend; he’s meant to feature in the record books.
But such thinking bypasses the genuinely startling nature of the midfielder’s achievement: his total of nine goals (two more than his nearest rival, striker-turned-pundit-turned-manager-turned-pundit Alan Shearer) was arrived at in 1984, during his only appearance at the tournament.
Indeed, over the course of a single fortnight, Platini accumulated a career’s worth of accolades, scoring: the winning goal in the tournament’s opening fixture; two hat-tricks (against Belgium and Yugoslavia, respectively); the decisive goal of an epic semi-final encounter with Portugal, and – a fitting coup de grâce – the strike that laid the foundations for Les Bleus’ victory over Spain in the final.
It was the goal binge to end all goal binges.
As this package of highlights from his group stage encounter with Yugoslavia makes clear, Platini’s form was so potent, so multifaceted as to border on the unstoppable: