By Duncan Mackay

Former Portuguese international Luis Figo has announced that he will stand for FIFA President ©Getty ImagesFormer Portuguese international Luis Figo today announced that he will run for President of FIFA and claimed he had obtained the necessary five nominations from National Associations to support his candidacy.

The surprise announcement on the eve of when candidates have to declare their candidacy means he joins another former international, France's David Ginola, in challenging Sepp Blatter.

Others to have declared they will run are France's former FIFA Executive Jérôme Champagne, Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and Michael van Praag, President of the Royal Dutch Football Association, although all are dependent on being endorsed by at least five National Associations if they are stand against Blatter at the FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29.

"Football has given me so much during my life and I want to give something back to the game," said 42-year-old Figo.

"I look at the reputation of FIFA right now and I don't like it. Football deserves better.

"In recent weeks, months, and even years, I have seen the image of FIFA deteriorate and as I speak to many people in football - to players, managers and Association Presidents - so many of those people have told me that something has to be done.

"Throughout my career I have worked at all levels of the game.

"This has given me a unique insight and understanding that I feel can enhance the discussion about the future of FIFA and the future of football."

Luis Figo won 127 caps for Portugual during a career in which he played for some of Europe's top clubs, including Real Madrid ©Getty ImagesLuis Figo won 127 caps for Portugual during a career in which he played for some of Europe's top clubs, including Real Madrid ©Getty Images

Figo's candidacy appears far more legitimate than that of Ginola, the former Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United star, who announced earlier this month that he would stand. 

But his campaign has been dismissed as a publicity stunt as it is backed by bookmaker Paddy Power, who are paying the Frenchman £250,000 ($327,000/€380,000) to run against Blatter.

But Ginola's campaign looks to be in serious jeopardy however, even if he has somehow persuaded five National Associations to back him, after it emerged that he faces charges for breaching Article 25 of FIFA's Code of Ethics for his links to gambling. 

Champagne is also struggling to obtain the necessary support, he has admitted, although Prince Ali and van Praag are both confident of receiving the necessary backing.

The English Football Association are among those who are expected to support Prince Ali's candidature. 

Figo made 127 international appearances for Portugal during his career, which saw him play for some of Europe's top clubs, including Barcelona, Real Madrid, Internazionale and Sporting Lisbon.

The full list of fully-endorsed candidates is due to be announced on February 7 or 8, Blatter has revealed. 

Figo, who has served on the UEFA Football Committee from 2011, has promised to run a campaign for change, focussing on better governance, more transparency, increased solidarity and the protection of true football values.

A detailed programme for positive reform will be unveiled in the coming weeks, he claimed.

Jose Mourinho (right), manager of Premier League, was among the early leading football figures to endorse Luis Figo's plan to stand to become FIFA President Jose Mourinho (right), manager of Premier League, was among the early leading football figures to endorse Luis Figo's plan to stand to become FIFA President

"I am convinced that FIFA's position as the governing body of world football is absolutely vital," said Figo.

"For this to be preserved it is essential that we see change at the top and we set FIFA on a new course which is all about football and less about politics.

"This is why I am looking forward to getting on the road in the coming weeks, to explain in detail my programme and my vision. 

"My aim is to nourish my plans with the insights and ideas of the National Associations, to listen to their concerns and to provide a forum for a new approach to FIFA which is focussed on FIFA's stakeholders rather than just FIFA.

"Football runs through my veins.

"I am a man of football, inside out and I am ready to help bring about change."

Among those to offer their early support to Figo was fellow Portuguese, Jose Mourinho, the manager of Premier League Chelsea.

"Luis Figo's candidacy is a great step forward for football," he said. 

"His career over many years grants a better future for FIFA.

"I believe in his character and determination, as well as his passion for the game.

"He will be a President focused on football and its general improvement, acting closely with all Federations."

Another Premier League manager, Dutchman Ronald Koeman, who used to play with Figo at Barcelona, also made public his support. 

"Figo's candidacy is an opportunity for the change of FIFA," he said.

"I know him personally and I know that this is a conscient decision based on the need of giving a new direction to an institution that suffered extensive damage in the past years."

Prince Ali also joined in the chorus of support for Figo's decision to put himself forward. 

"We welcome the candidacy of Luis Figo, who today joined a group of credible colleagues from the football family who want to join a genuine debate about the future of FIFA," he said.  

"As I stated earlier this week, this election is about what is in the best interests of football and the world governing body of the game going forward. 

"It is good for democracy to have an election with multiple reform candidates."

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