The summer of 2000 brought the world of football to its knees in astonishment, as Luis Figo transferred from Catalan Giants FC Barcelona, to eternal rivals Real Madrid, for a world-record fee of £37 million.
Barcelona’s devoted supporters were left with a bowl full to the top with anger and irritation. This anger was for all to see, as Figo’s second return to the Camp Nou as one of the Galactico’s resulted in a disgusting pigs head launched towards him.
( Luis Figo and the pigs head at Nou Camp | Photo: 101greatgoals.com )
This remarkably unusual occurrence however never overshadowed Figo’s footballing ability.
Almost everyone associated with Portugese football, even European football as a matter of fact will have some form of respect for Luis Figo and his mesmerising Skill.
A gem of Portugese football, Luis Figo was a product of the famous Sporting Lisbon youth academy, which has more recently produced the like of Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho and William Carvalho. Figo gained recognition through his outstanding talent as a teenager, winning various youth international competitions with Portugal, most notably the World youth cup success of 1991. Figo’s drastic rise meant a host of clubs from across Europe came calling, desperate for the wingers signature.
This meant Serie A sides Parma and Juventus were at war, both fighting to sign Lisbon’s magician. With both clubs eventually complaining to FIFA, Figo was subsequently banned from signing for any Italian club for two years. Barcelona pounced on the opportunity, and signed Figo for a bargain fee of just £1.5 million
Figo was a vital cog in Barcelona’s success through the mid to late ’90s. Under former England manager Bobby Ronbson and Louis van Gaal, Figo established himself as one of the games finest midfielders, with his eye for goal improving, as well as his overall contribution. While at Barcelona, Figo became a complete attacker, assisting Barcelona to a collection of Silverware, firstly winning the Spanish Cup, Cup-Winners Cup and the European Super cup all in 1997.
League success in 1998 and 1999 also followed. Figo’s heroics led him to being named captain of Barcelona. By this time, Figo was also a key player for the Portugal first team. This specific portugal side also known as the golden generation, with other stars including Joao Pinto and Rui Costa at their disposal. Figo played a starring role in Portugal’s Euro 1996 campaign, which however ultimately ended in defeat to the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals.
Figo’s success with Barca sparked interest from none other then Real Madrid. Powered by a huge amount of transfer funds, Madrid were prepared to pay an extoritional fee for the winger. Barcelona accepted a world-record fee of £37 Million in the summer of 2000. Luis Figo became the first of the so called ‘Galacticos’, players that were signed for large sums of money in order to gain European domination.
In his first season with the mighty Real, Figo won the FIFA world player of the year and European Footballer of the year awards. Even with Figo seen as public enemy number one in the eyes of Barca fans, he still seemed to have made the right move. During his time with Real, Figo won the UEFA Champions League, La liga, as well as playing along side some of the games greatest (Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Cluade Makelele are only a few examples).
International responsibility once again came calling, with Figo now captain of the national side. Euro 2000 was a success for Figo on a personal note, gaining praise for his stunning performances, most notably against England, in which he scored a spectacular long-range effort.
The FIFA 2002 World Cup proved to be a complete contrast, as Portugal were knocked out in the group stage, leaving their ‘golden generation’ somewhat speechless. Portugal were hosts of 2004 European Championships, and Figo once again was Portugals talisman. This time however an array of new young talent were introduced, wingers Cristinao Ronaldo and Simao Sabrosa excited fans with their pace and trickery on either side of the flanks. Portugal reached the final, defeat again however was the outcome, as the defensive minded Greece secured a surpise victory.
Inter Milan were the last club Figo played for before he retired in 2009. In this time, Figo won an array of Serie A titles and even though getting in with age, was still able to dazzle the spectators with his skilful wing-play. The 2006 World Cup proved to be Figo’s international swansong, helping Portugal reach fourth place in the competition.
Figo earned himself a place in the team of the tournament. The winger ended his international career, with 127 caps and 32 goals to his name.
Luis Figo was a direct, skilful winger who cherished the challenge to take on a full-back. A scorer of spectacular goals, the midfielder had a fantastic turn of pace when running with the ball, making it difficult for defenders to make a challenge.