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(AFP)

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has decided to step down as leader of football’s governing body.

Blatter announced his decision just four days after the FIFA Congress that saw  him win a fifth term as the body’s president.

“I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football,” Blatter said at a press conference in Zurich on Tuesday.

“FIFA needs a profound overhaul. I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress.

“I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA president until that election.”

Domenico Scala, head of FIFA’s independent audit and compliance committee, said there would need to be four months’ notice for any new presidential election.

“The decision for the timing of the election of the next president will be up to the executive committee and will take place any time from December until March.”

The unexpected resignation came amid one of the most  controversial episodes  in FIFA’s history.

Seven high-ranking  FIFA officials were arrested  ahead of the football governing body’s meeting last Friday.

Swiss authorities had launched a separate criminal investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups that are set to be held in Russia and Qatar.

At the FIFA meeting in Zurich last Friday, Blatter, 79, had been re-elected when his only rival, Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, withdrew after gaining 73 votes to Blatter’s 133 in the first round of voting.

A day later, Blatter came out fighting, implying that the US timed the announcement of a major  corruption probe to try to scupper his re-election bid.

“Arrested for what? Next question,” Blatter dismissed curtly, when asked if he feared where the US federal case was heading following his re-election.

The investigation closed in on Blatter on Tuesday when FIFA was forced to deny that his right-hand man, Secretary-General Jerome Valcke, was implicated in a $10m payment that lies at the heart of the US case.

Valcke, who has been secretary-general since 2007 and is seen as one of the most powerful men in world sport, had no role in the payments, which were authorised by the chairman of FIFA’s Finance Committee, FIFA said in an earlier statement.

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s office of attorney general (OAG) has confirmed that it was not investigating outgoing Blatter.

The chairman of the committee at the time of the payments was Argentina’s Julio Grondona, who died last year.

Blatter’s “announced resignation will have no influence on the ongoing criminal proceedings,” the attorney general said in a statement.

The attorney general had opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering alongside the US corruption investigation. (Al Jazeera)