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Who will be Uefa's next president? Aleksander Ceferin and Michael Van Praag fight over future of European football in bids to replace Michel Platini

Joe Hall
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Who is Uefa president? Michael Van Praag vs Aleksander Ceferin
Ceferin vs Van Praag is being pitched as small clubs vs big clubs (Source: Getty)

The future path of European football will become clearer on Wednesday after governing body Uefa elects a new president to replace the disgraced Michel Platini.

Slovenian lawyer Aleksander Ceferin and Dutch administrator Michael Van Praag are duking it out at the 12th Extraordinary Congress in Athens for the potentially poisoned chalice of leading Uefa as it deals with the threat of a breakaway European Super League.

In an apparent bid to quell agitation from the continent’s biggest clubs amid proposals for a breakaway European competition, Uefa has pledged to guarantee its top four leagues four places in the Champions League from the 2018-9 season.

In response, discontented smaller associations have hit out at the reforms which have drawn opposing stances from Ceferin, who is not an advocate, and Van Praag, who is in support.

Read more: Uefa urged to consider alternative format to liven up low-scoring European Championship

The eventual winner will also be tasked with lifting their organisation out of the shadow of football’s corruption crisis, still looming over Uefa; former president Platini — currently serving a four-year ban from “all football related activity" — has permission to deliver a farewell speech at the elections.

Michael Van Praag

The FA have given their backing to the more experienced Van Praag, with vice-chairman David Gill citing the Dutch football chief’s shared criticism of Sepp Blatter and vocal proponent of Fifa's need to reform.

The 68-year-old has a long history in football, stretching back to 1989 when he emulated his father by becoming chairman of Ajax.

His candidacy may be viewed with some skepticism by smaller associations due to his support of Uefa’s recent changes to the Champions League and prior role as vice-president of the G14, a group representing Europe's biggest teams that later became the European Club Association.

Aleksander Ceferin

Ceferin has emerged as the favourite after securing the public backing of powerful associations such as France and Germany, who regard him as the best placed candidate to stablise European football's current turbulence, as well as the majority of Eastern European countries.

A sports lawyer by trade, the Slovenian has been in charge of his country's football association since 2011 and has reportedly impressed his contemporaries on the continent in the role.

He has criticised the Champions League reforms and has pledged to work on re-balancing the power of European football away from bigger clubs.

However, while the 48-year-old has positioned himself as free of the “baggage” attached to established figures, he has recently been hit by allegations that he is being supported by Fifa president Gianni Infantino through strategic director Kjetil Siem is lobbying on his behalf, Ceferin denies the claims.

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