Uefa presidential candidates: Ángel María Villar

On 21st August 2016 by Kieran

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Background

Ángel María Villar is a former professional footballer from Bilbao, Spain. The Spaniard made in excess of 300 appearances at Athletic Bilbao, in a career that spanned ten years and saw him win the Copa Del Rey once. Villar also won a total of 22 caps for the Spanish national side during his career, scoring three goals in the process. Despite the Spaniard not making any appearances at a major international tournament, Villar did study for a degree in Law during his playing career, majoring in 1979.

A degree in law was not the only thing that Ángel María Villar achieved alongside his playing career, being one of the founding members of the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) on 23 January 1978. Three years subsequent to this, Villar retired from the AFE and was soon elected president of the local football association of Vizcaya (Biscay) (Now the Basque Football Federation).

In 1988, just seven years after Villar’s retirement from club football, he won the election to become president of the Royal Spanish Football Association (RFEF), a role in which he has served for 28 years to date.

Whilst President of the RFEF, Villar has witnessed the rise of Spain’s national team into the world class side they are today, overseeing their first major title in 44 years in the form of the European Championships in 2008, followed two years later by a World Cup victory and again just two years later being crowned winners of the 2012 European Championships co-hosted by the Ukraine and Poland. Villar does not only have a background in serving Spanish football, however. The 66-year-old has served roles in both the FIFA and UEFA Executive Committee, the most notable of which,  vice-president for both  organisations from 1992 and 2002 respectively.

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Is he the best candidate for the job?

Angel Maria Villar certainly has the background for the job. As first vice-president of UEFA, Villar has been acting UEFA president in place of Michel Platini since October 2015, and will do so until the extraordinary UEFA congress in Athens on 14 September.

In addition to his roles as president of RFEF and first vice-president of UEFA, Villar has also held a number of positions within UEFA. Working as the president of the Refereeing Committee and executive president of the Judiciary Commission.

Villar has voiced that he is confident he can win the UEFA election expressing: “I have taken this step because I have sufficient support to win”. Whilst also admitting that his reason to run for UEFA president was: “because the majority of the European federations have asked me to”. Therefore suggesting that he has a significant amount support from federations, however whether this has any substance or if it is simply bravado, is yet to be seen. This said, Villar does have the experience necessary to be successful at the top of UEFA, but having not laid out any plans on how he wishes to move UEFA forward, he may fall down to fellow candidate Michael van Praag.

Although having such confidence in his running for the UEFA presidency, Villar has admitted:”If I don’t win or I pull out, which I don’t believe will happen, I will stand for re-election of the Royal Spanish Football Association.” An election in which could see him run against RFEF’s current general secretary, Jorge Perez.

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Controversies

Despite such vast experience within both FIFA and UEFA, Ángel María Villar’s credibility can be somewhat questioned. In November 2015, shortly after stepping into the role of UEFA president to fill Michel Platini’s place, Villar was suspected of orchestrating a voting pact between Spain/Portugal for their 2018 World Cup bid and Qatar for their 2022 World Cup bid.

The 66-year-old initially did not co-operate with the investigation regarding the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bids, however, when faced with sanctions, Villar did finally comply.

Despite clearing his name with regard to failing to co-operate with the investigation, Villar was later given a warning and fined 25,000 Swiss francs for behaving in an indecent manner during an interview in the investigation.

The failing to comply could have been an attempt to cover up something, or simply a lapse in judgement at the time, with Villar not having given an explanation as to why he refused to co-operate at the time, it is down to a matter of opinion.

Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) president Javier Tebas has backed Angel Maria Villar to run for UEFA president: “It could be very good if Angel Maria Villar would dedicate himself exclusively to Europe and someone else lead Spanish football” he said.

However, Tebas’ ‘backing’ of Villar for UEFA may hide seems to be for an ulterior motive – he has criticised Villar on a number of occasions on situations within both Spanish football and FIFA, so it is possible that he wants to oust Villar as president of the RFEF instead.

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