International Football Federation President Sepp Blatter has publicly endorsed Michel Platini's candidacy to head the European Football Union, one of the sport's most powerful governing bodies.

Speaking in Düsseldorf, Germany on the eve of the UEFA presidential election, Mr. Blatter insisted he was neutral but said he admired Platini, a former French national midfielder and a three-time European Player of the Year. Blatter brought Platini into football politics and he has worked for the world governing body since 1998.

The 51-year-old French star is competing against current UEFA president Lennart Johansson, a 77-year-old Swede who is seeking a fifth term in office. Johansson lost a bitterly-contested election for the FIFA presidency to Blatter in 1998. He called Mr. Blatter's remarks "typical."

Platini has said he would like to change the Champions League by reducing the maximum number of teams from a single nation to three instead of four. That would give more countries a chance of reaching the lucrative tournament. Johansson has said he wants to keep things as they are.

Friday's vote by the 52 European national federations is by secret ballot. A winning candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the votes plus one. If no winner is found after three rounds, lots will be drawn.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.