Wing Wizards: Luis Figo – Brilliance and betrayal


Luis Figo’s footballing means alone would have been sufficient to cement his place within the everlasting reminiscences of the worldwide recreation.

Figo’s fabulous footwork made him top-of-the-line inventive skills of a technology, a winger who beat defenders with an easy ease and who gained – and broke – hearts at a few of Europe’s largest soccer golf equipment.

Figo’s story is one in all expertise, treachery and an entire lot in between, the figurehead of Portuguese soccer’s Golden Technology and a person who launched the Galactico period, bringing within the new millennium with some of the unforgettable transfers of all time.


Born in a working-class district of the town of Almada, situated south of the Tagus River from Lisbon, his precocious skills have been quickly noticed within the capital as Figo was inducted into the hallowed academy of Sporting.

Having honed his fleet-footed skills in futsal earlier than making the transfer into the Sporting system, he rose quickly via the ranks to make his debut as a teen, approaching as a 17-year-old in a 1–0 dwelling win in opposition to Marítimo in April 1990.

The 1991/92 marketing campaign noticed Figo earn his common breakthrough into the facet and senior honours with Portugal quickly arrived.

He had earlier shaped a part of the u20 group that gained the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship, that includes alongside future worldwide teammates Rui Costa, Joao Pinto and Jorge Costa, earlier than making his senior debut in opposition to Luxembourg in October.

At membership stage he continued to develop in affect at Sporting with the hallmarks of his recreation shining via. Quick feints to go away defenders for lifeless turned a trademark, while a capability to create possibilities quickly noticed curiosity arrive from overseas.

In 1995, he discovered himself on the centre of a dispute between Juventus and Parma. Sporting had agreed his hushed sale to the previous, although Figo’s displeasure with the way of the deal noticed him as an alternative signal a pre-agreement with Parma.

What ensued was a chaotic contractual state of affairs that resulted in a two-year ban on Italian sides from signing the winger. Barcelona capitalised, agreeing a £2.25 million to carry Figo throughout the border.

Arriving as a substitute for Michael Laudrup on the Camp Nou, the transfer to Spain noticed Figo’s star proceed its ascent.

He arrived below the administration of Johan Cruyff, however shone brightest following the exit of the enduring Dutchman, following within the footsteps of his former boss to turn into an adopted Catalan and beloved Barcelona determine.

His 5 seasons with La Blaugrana introduced seven trophies. Two league titles, two Copa del Reys, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Tremendous Cup all arrived throughout Figo’s time with the membership.

Figo’s function was essential within the membership’s Copa del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup double in 1996/97, scoring eight objectives, together with a brace as Barcelona twice got here from behind to beat Actual Betis within the former closing.

The next season noticed league and cup success arrive, as Figo captained the facet to a home double below Louis van Gaal.

Recognised as one of many recreation’s nice skills, his standing in Catalonia was at enormous heights. Adored on the terraces, he turned an embodiment for the followers having embraced all issues Barcelona, regardless of his roots having been greater than 1000km to the west.

Then, in the summertime of 2000, his repute modified irreversibly.

Florentino Perez had made the daring promise that he would signal Figo ought to he be elected as president of Actual Madrid, which when it got here to fruition led to arguably probably the most controversial switch of all time.

Figo – having shone for Portugal at Euro 2000 and headed in direction of the Ballon d’Or – did the unthinkable and signed for Actual Madrid.

A world-record payment noticed Figo launched from his contract and cross the El Clasico divide, the animosity between the golf equipment reaching unprecedented ranges. Barcelona, betrayed, noticed their figurehead go away for his or her fiercest rivals, watching on with horror as a person who had represented their values selected to facet with the everlasting enemy.

For Perez it was the beginning of a conceit challenge that turned know because the “Galactico period’ and noticed the game’s superstars head to Actual Madrid. Figo was the primary, earlier than Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham all took their flip in being paraded on the Bernabeu in successive summers.

Figo’s first season ended with the capital membership topped champions and the Portuguese playmaker was on the centre of their success, scoring 14 objectives.

After profitable the Ballon d’Or in 2000, he picked up the FIFA World Participant of the 12 months award in 2001, recognition of his standing as one of many planet’s best footballers.

His first return to the Camp Nou was unmissable viewing, one through which he refused to take corners amid the deafening sound of boos, whistles and expletives as missiles reigned onto the Camp Nou pitch.

Zidane’s arrival noticed the duo share the inventive burden for Los Blancos and the 2001/02 marketing campaign ended with Champions League success. Zidane’s outrageous volley secured a closing win over Bayer Leverkusen and Figo acquired his fingers on Europe’s largest prize – tangible justification for his defection.

Any hopes that the ill-feeling in direction of Figo that had reached boiling level would possibly simmer proved incorrect, along with his return to the Camp Nou in November 2002 etched into soccer historical past.

Once more the Barcelona followers poured out their hatred in an environment of animosity and anger in Catalonia, with objects raining onto the pitch within the path of the Actual Madrid winger.

Amongst them, in what has turn into iconic imagery, was a pig’s head – a logo of the perceived greed that led Figo to swap his star standing at Barcelona for Actual Madrid’s riches.

Figo spent 5 seasons with Actual Madrid and made 245 appearances in all competitions, including two additional league titles to the back-to-back La Liga successes gained at Barcelona.

He departed after a irritating closing season on the Bernabeu and signed for Inter Milan on a free switch.

A quickness of thoughts compensated for slowing legs throughout 4 seasons in Italy, through which he claimed 4 consecutive Scudetto as Inter dominated the division within the wake of the Calciopoli scandal.

Figo known as time on an illustrious profession in 2009, one which had seen him turn into the chief of Portugal’s Golden Technology. He gained 127 caps and scored 32 objectives for the nationwide facet, however was unable to guide the nation to a maiden worldwide success.

After profitable main tournaments at youth stage, Portugal’s rising technology got here agonisingly near ending the nation’s wait, reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2000 and the 2006 World Cup.

He was the inspiration behind an exciting group stage comeback in opposition to England within the former match, scoring a long-range effort as Portugal got here from two objectives all the way down to win.

Figo’s largest disappointment with Portugal got here at Euro 2004. On dwelling soil, it was a match that was notably painful for Figo, who noticed his facet’s goals shattered with a shock loss to shock finalists Greece in Lisbon.

In the course of the recreation, a pitch invader threw a Barcelona flag in Figo’s path, the ill-feeling nonetheless surfacing 4 years later.

Figo’s greatest noticed him celebrated as one of many recreation’s greats, a winger with shut management, creativity and a pleasant directness to go away defenders wrong-footed and speeding to get better.

He was the identify who ushered within the Galacticos, the primary domino for an period that lives lengthy within the reminiscence at Actual Madrid as a fantasy footballing facet was assembled.

That his exit nonetheless creates such anger in Barcelona is due to the magnitude of his one-time significance to the Catalan trigger. He was a pacesetter, magnificent on the pitch and symbolic off it.

That world-record crossing of the El Clasico divide has turn into the overriding narrative of Figo, however the causes Actual Madrid made their transfer within the first place is what ought to actually be remembered.

At his greatest he had few friends, a gloriously gifted footballer who helped outline a decade.

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The publish Wing Wizards: Luis Figo – Brilliance and betrayal first appeared on The Soccer Devoted. Supply –

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