Luís Filipe Madeira Caeiro Figo, born November 4, 1972 in Lisbon, Portugal) is a professional Portuguese football player. In his homeland Figo is considered by some second only to Eusebio as Portugal’s greatest player ever. He plays as a midfielder and winger, currently for Inter Milan. Known as the original Golden Boy (a name which now belongs to Cristiano Ronaldo, a teammate from the Portugal national football team), Figo gained fame as the main football player behind Portugal's prominent Golden Generation that consisted of fellow legends like Rui Costa, and was the reason why the term came into use. Figo was the 2000 European Footballer of the Year, the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year, and was named amongst the FIFA 100. Known for his exceptional trickery and dribbling skills on either wing (though he predominantly plays on the right), Figo is one of the few footballers to have played for both the Spanish rival clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Figo started his career at Sporting Clube de Portugal, a club which has developed many other great Portuguese players. He won his first senior international cap in 1991. Prior to that, he won the Under-20 World Championships and Under-16 European Championships with Portugal junior sides, alongside compatriot Rui Costa and a significant part of his nation's so called 'golden generation'.
In 1995, Figo looked poised to join one of the big clubs of Europe, but a dispute between Italian clubs Juventus F.C. and Parma, with Figo having signed contracts with both clubs, resulted in an Italian 2-year transfer ban on Figo, effectively stopping any moves to Italy. However, the situation was eventually resolved for Figo, with a move to Spanish club FC Barcelona, under coach Johan Cruijff, and within four years he became a fan-favourite, captain and symbol of the Catalan side.
It was with FC Barcelona from 1995 that the career of the 'Lion King' really took off: Figo won a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1996/97, successive Primera División titles and went on to appear 172 times for the Blaugrana, scoring 30 goals. Figo was able to garner many plaudits while at the Nou Camp, such as Sir Alex Ferguson, who it has been later claimed almost brought him to Manchester United before Euro 2000 in a swap deal with David Beckham. Figo reached a rather unique position in Barcelona, becoming the first non-Catalan to wear FC Barcelona's captain's band.
In 2000 came his controversial, world-record transfer to rivals Real Madrid, which only intensified the great animosity between the two clubs. The move caused outrage among Barcelona fans and many others baulked at the €65m fee. Yet Figo justified the investment by helping Madrid to the Primera División title and UEFA Champions League semi-finals as well as winning the FIFA World Footballer of the Year award. In 2001–02, he went one better, playing through injury against Bayer Leverkusen as Madrid prevailed 2-1. Figo also occupied a major role as Madrid won the 2003 Spanish title, scoring ten times. The success made up for the disappointment of a Champions League semi-final loss to Juventus, but the next season, despite Figo's nine league goals, Madrid finished fourth and lost in the Champions League last eight and Copa del Rey final. He went from being one of the most cherished players in Catalonia to being the most hated. There was a short-lived website, AntiFigo.com, devoted to insulting "Judas Figo". He missed his highly anticipated first return to the Nou Camp due to injury; in 2002, Barcelona's ground was almost closed after objects (including a pig's head, whiskey bottles, etc.) were thrown at Figo, while chants calling him Pesetero (which can be roughly translated to money whore) echoed around the stadium; and finally, during the final match of Euro 2004 between Greece and Portugal, a Barça fan known as Jimmy Jump ran across the field and threw an FC Barcelona flag at Figo in an apparent act of defiance.
Luís Figo: Portugal captain. Despite the detractors and some critics' claims that he was a vastly 'overrated' player, Figo played out some of the best attacking football ever seen in both an individual and in his Real Madrid team. It was not hard to see why though, given that Figo was one of the linchpins at the heart of an ever increasing star studded squad that included Zinedine Zidane, Steve McManaman, Fernando Hierro, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, and Raúl González, and dubbed the 'Greatest Club in the World' first, and then, officially crowned as the 'Club of the Century' by FIFA in the year he joined. Alongside his equally illustrious team mates, Real Madrid with Figo at the core swept the titles for the next three years under coach Vicente Del Bosque. He struck four goals in the Champions League group stage in 2004/2005 but it was another mixed campaign for Madrid, coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo had a fall-out with Figo after he relegated the Portugal International to the bench for the second half of the 2004–2005 Primera Liga season and David Beckham was moved to the right. It was widely believed that Figo would leave Los Merengues for first-team football elsewhere. During the off-season, he was linked with a move to the English Premiership with Liverpool or to Serie A's Inter Milan. Given permission to leave by Madrid, on August 5, 2005, Figo moved to Inter on a free transfer and a two-year deal worth £6 million.
In his first season at Inter, Figo notched up 34 appearances as the club finished third in the league. However, Inter were later awarded the league title (scudetto) in the controversial match-fixing scandal (popularly known as 'Calciopoli') that saw Juventus stripped of the league title and relegated to the second division, while second-placed A.C. Milan were docked 30 points from the final standings. The following season, 2006–2007, Figo appeared 32 times scoring twice as Inter won the league title which included a Serie A record of 17 consecutive match wins in a row. In December 2006, Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad reported Figo would transfer to the club in January 2007. Figo traveled to Saudi Arabia to sign a contract, but after talks with Inter Milan owner and President Massimo Moratti, Figo remained in the club and renewed his contract until the end of the 2007–08 season. Thus, a statement made on January 3, 2007, on the official Inter website declaring: "There are no negotiations for the transfer of Luis Figo to another club. The recent news of a possible transfer of the Portuguese midfielder is, therefore, completely groundless." (Inter.it) Despite this statement, on January 5, 2007, it was announced on the website of La Gazzetta dello Sport, that Figo had signed a contract in Saudi Arabia, starting on July 1st, 2007.
On May 29, 2007, in a spectacular about-face, Luis Figo broke off his deal with the Al Ittihad club, saying that they hadn't fullfiled their obligations.
On June 10, 2007, Figo renewed his contract until June 30, 2008 and will afterwards take a directorial role at Inter. It has been reported that Figo could migrate to North America and play in the MLS next year when his contract expires with Inter.
Luís Figo is married to Swedish model Helen Svedin. The two met at a flamenco show and are now married with three daughters, Daniela (born in March 1999), Martina (born in April 2002), and Stella (born December 9, 2004).
Like several of his Real Madrid colleagues at the time like Steve McManaman and Roberto Carlos, Luís is a devout Catholic, and met the Pope with those team mates in 2002.
Along with his countryman, football manager Carlos Queiróz, Figo was briefly joint seat holder for A1 Team Portugal, in A1 Grand Prix, during the 2005-06 season.
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