MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish football boss Angel Maria Villar has withdrawn from next week’s UEFA presidential election, he said in a statement on his federation’s (RFER) website on Tuesday. “Although I have received plenty of support to continue with my campaign, I have, after a deep reflection, decided to withdraw my candidacy,” Villar said. Villar, who is UEFA’s first vice-president and has taken on the presidential role at events such as Euro 2016, said he made the decision after being asked to stand for re-election this year as head of his own country’s federation.
“There have been many representatives of Spanish football who have made their voices heard and asked me to continue working for my country’s football by submitting a new bid in the next months for my reelection as president of RFEF,” he said.
It means that two candidates are left in the UEFA election next Wednesday which will take place in Athens – Slovenian football boss Aleksandar Ceferin and his Dutch counterpart Michael van Praag.
Villar, who has been RFEF president since 1988, is a former Athletic Bilbao and Spain midfielder who has sat on the executive committee of world soccer’s ruling body FIFA since 1998 and on its UEFA equivalent since 1992.
Villar was fined 25,000 Swiss francs ($26,000) last year by FIFA’s Ethics Committee for failing to co-operate with an investigation into the contest to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
He presided over the most successful era in the history of the Spanish national team, who won the 2010 World Cup and successive European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
However, he divides opinion in Spanish football and Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga, has publicly criticized Villar on numerous occasions for his leadership of the RFEF.
The UEFA election has been called to find a replacement for Frenchman Michel Platini, who has been banned for four years for ethics violations.
Platini was elected in 2015 and the winner will complete his mandate which runs until 2019.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)