Luis Figo is one of the most decorated professional football players of the modern era. He has won a host of trophies whilst playing for the biggest clubs in the world. These teams include the likes of Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. Figo also has more than a century of international caps under his belt for Portugal. It is safe to see that Figo enjoyed an illustrious career as one of the best attack minded players of his generation.
The transfer which evoked widespread controversy for the elegant wide-man was his big money deal from Barcelona to Real Madrid in the summer of 2000. Figo had performed well for the Catalan side and won several trophies while playing at the Nou Camp. The Portuguese had also appeared more than 150 times for the club, and looked to be settled and enjoying life. This was another reason why the deal came as such a shock to the entire football world.
The deal was finalised at an enormous fee of £37 million, making him Real Madrid’s most expensive player at the time, and one of the world’s most expensive players of all time. This deal came as a big surprise for two reasons; the fact that Figo had transferred between the two famous rivals, and also the way in which the deal was conducted.
Figo moving from Barcelona to their most successful rivals, Real Madrid, was a transfer that seldom occurs. There are only a handful of players that have moved directly between the Spanish rivals. This move left the Barcelona fans with a feeling of betrayal. But things were to get worse when some rumours surrounding the deal were brought up. Supposedly a pre-contract agreement had been arranged between Figo’s agent and a certain Real Madrid presidential candidate by the name of Florentino Perez.
The speculation was that if Perez was elected, a fine amounting to half the amount of the deal (£18.5 million) would have to be paid if Figo didn’t complete the transfer. Luckily, Perez was elected and Figo subsequently transferred to the Spanish capital.
The nature of the deal left the Barcelona fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. The man which they once idolised had left them to go play for their massive rivals, just for more money. This led to a host of people associated to Barcelona describing Figo as a greedy man, who was just motivated by money. The fans were so annoyed that objects were thrown at Figo upon his return to the Nou Camp, while playing for Real Madrid. One of the items thrown was a pig head, which lead to tensions rising even higher between the player and the fans.
Figo’s move was the first of the ‘Galacticos’ (or ‘Galact-egos’ as they were affectionately known) era, one which saw Real make a number of big name signings in the coming years. His move also turned out to be successful in terms of trophies as Figo also won the Champions League.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Figo at Real Madrid. Manchester United’s John O’ Shea showed him who the real ‘Galactico’ is:
Michael McKenna, Pundit Arena.
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