Liam Morgan
David Owen head and shouldersAs if events swirling around FIFA needed to get any more surreal, Joseph Blatter was last week challenged for the Presidency of the world football governing body by a man purported to be a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad.

And, in what must strike football neophytes, though not habitual observers, as another bizarre twist, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, third son of the late King Hussein of Jordan, is expected to get much of his support in May's election from Western Europe. Asian football chiefs, meanwhile, have thrown their weight behind the Swiss septuagenarian who, it is widely assumed, will attempt to win a fifth term in office.

Prince Ali, who turned 39 just over two weeks ago and has been a FIFA vice-president since 2011 (though not for much longer), has shown early signs of being an administrator who can get things done. I understand that he played an important role in FIFA's decision last year to lift its ban on women footballers wearing a hijab during matches.

But he wouldn't yet be considered a truly credible candidate to head up the world's most powerful single-sport federation but for a strong feeling in Western Europe, magnet for most of the money that gushes into the game, that FIFA is in such dire straits that someone, anyone needed to be found to let Blatter know he had been in a fight.

A journalist I much respect indicated some days ago that Prince Ali might be nearing 100 votes. Given that FIFA only has 209 member associations, and that we are still nearly five months from polling day, that would spell serious trouble for the incumbent.

Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein announced his candidacy for the FIFA Presidency later this month ©Getty ImagesPrince Ali Bin Al-Hussein announced his candidacy for the FIFA Presidency later this month ©Getty Images

My own feeling, and that of most others I have spoken to, is that, barring truly seismic developments in the course of the campaign, the Jordanian will do well to get beyond a respectable 60 to 70 votes.

Frankly, the fact that we can be so blasé about discussing likely scores only a week or so after a candidate has declared is a symptom of one of the structural, or attitudinal, flaws that beset FIFA. This is the way confederation bosses sometimes act like chief whips in political parties, urging or signalling to associations within their region to vote a particular way. Not all do, but enough probably will to render campaign platforms on how better to run the global game largely redundant.

I thought I could feel the frustration of Jérôme Champagne, the third horse in this race, last week when he called on Prince Ali to spell out the changes he wanted to implement. If actual ideas counted for much in this contest, Champagne, who has set out his platform in great detail, could expect to be running strongly. Instead, some feel he may struggle to secure the written support of five member associations that is necessary formally to enter the race under the FIFA statutes. If he won, it would be an upset far greater than Foinavon.

I would be nearly as dumbfounded if Prince Ali won. I base this not on a detailed analysis of how each member of the electorate is likely to cast his or her vote, but on my surmise of the electoral outcome that may best suit UEFA President Michel Platini.

It is pure speculation on my part, but it is my hunch that the 59-year-old Frenchman, though sitting out this election, would quite like to run FIFA one day. If you accept that, then ask yourself what situation he would prefer in four years' time: a governing body presided over by an 82 year-old finally ready to hand over the reins after two decades in the saddle; or a FIFA run with increasing assurance by a man 20 years his junior, who lacked experience at the outset, but is starting to grow into the role and has gained respect for his integrity?

UEFA President Michel Platini could harbour hopes of eventually becoming FIFA President ©Getty ImagesUEFA President Michel Platini could harbour hopes of eventually becoming FIFA President ©Getty Images

If Platini does harbour ambitions of succeeding Blatter, then you might reason that a vote which weakens the Swiss incumbent but does not remove him might be an acceptable outcome. That result might be delivered if Blatter beat off his rivals but failed to secure the two-thirds of votes of members "present and eligible to vote" which the statutes say are necessary for victory in the first ballot. It seems distinctly within the bounds of possibility for Prince Ali to gain enough support to keep Blatter below that two-thirds threshold.

Who knows, if the incumbent President really did scrape over the line, he might even opt to stand down without serving his full mandate. Either way, it is during the first election without Blatter's direct involvement that I fancy the big beasts of world football will finally exit their lairs and enter the fray.

David Owen worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 World Cup and London 2012. Owen's Twitter feed can be accessed here.