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Football Genius: Luis Figo

5/4/12

Luís Filipe Madeira Caeiro Figo was born 4 November 1972. is a former Portuguese international footballer. Figo is one of the few football players to have played for both the Spanish rival clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. He had a successful career highlighted by several trophy wins, such as one Portuguese Cup, four La Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, three Spanish Super Cups, one UEFA Champions League title, one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, one Intercontinental Cup, four Serie A titles, one Italian Cup and three Italian Super Cups. He played as a midfielder for Sporting CP, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Internazionale, during a career which spanned over a period of 20 years. He retired from football on 31 May 2009. He won 127 caps for the Portuguese national football team, a number that makes him the most capped Portuguese player in history. 
Figo started his career at Sporting CP. He won his first senior international cap in 1991. Prior to that, he won the Under-21 World Championships and Under-16 European Championships with Portugal junior sides, alongside Rui Costa, João Pinto and he was also a significant part of Portugal's "Golden Generation".
It was with Barcelona from 1995 that his career 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 Barcelona, scoring 30 goals. In 1995, Figo looked poised to join one of the big clubs of Europe, but a dispute between Italian clubs Juventus and Parma, with Figo having signed contracts with both clubs, resulted in an Italian two-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 for a £2.25 million fee, under Dutch coach Johan Cruyff. 
In 2000, Figo made a hugely controversial move to Barcelona's bitter rivals Real Madrid. Many Barcelona fans felt betrayed by his transfer and turned against him, despite Figo having many years of success with Barcelona and having been a fan favourite for over five years. When he returned three seasons later in a league match (2002), he got a heated reception from the crowd and many started throwing objects at him as he took corners and throw-ins, including a pig's head. Figo's arrival signaled the beginning of Florentino Pérez's "Galáctico era". With Madrid Figo won La Liga in 2001 and 2003 as well as the 2001-02 Champions League. 
Figo left Real Madrid to join Internazionale in the summer of 2005 on a free transfer after his contract with Real Madrid had expired. This meant that Figo would finally be able to play for a club in Italy, something he had the chance to do before his move to Barcelona, but was scuppered due to a dispute between the two clubs interested, Juventus and Parma. During the summer of 2008, Figo's compatriot José Mourinho joined Inter on a managerial level. This has been said to please Figo, as he would have several Portuguese teammates during the remainder of his stay at Inter. On 16 May 2009, Figo announced his retirement from football, the same day Internazionale won the 2008–09 title, and re-confirmed this on 30 May; his final game was on 31 May against Atalanta at the San Siro. At Javier Zanetti's insistence, Figo captained the side for his very last match. He received a standing ovation from the crowd as he was substituted by Davide Santon. The freekick he scored in extra time against Roma during the Supercoppa Italiana was undisputedly his most memorable part of his time in Italy. Figo said, "I am leaving football, not Inter." He was interviewed by Inter Channel after his last game against Atalanta and also said, "I hope to be able to help this club to become even greater also after my retirement. I will certainly work for Inter in the future in the club board. I never imagined that I was going to remain here for such a long time. What I will never forget is the love that I have received since my first day here from my teammates and president Massimo Moratti. I will never forget it; Inter have given me the chance to start a winning cycle with some extraordinary people." Luis Figo was on the sidelines when Internazionale Milano won the 2009–10 UEFA Champions League on 22 May 2010.
Figo is married to Swedish model Helen Svedin. They 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 9 December 2004). Along with his countryman, former Portugal national team manager and former youth team coach Carlos Queirós, Figo was briefly joint seat holder for A1 Team Portugal, in A1 Grand Prix, during the 2005–06 season. He now owns an upscale bar in the Algarve region of Portugal. It has been rumoured that he will come out of retirement to play a short guest stint with Australian A-League club Sydney FC. He has expressed interest in playing in the A-League shortly before retirement. Figo is an ambassador for the Stop TB Partnership in the fight against tuberculosis. He works closely with Internazionale, serving as an ambassador for the club at functions across Europe. He is also a board member of the Inter Campus charity project run by Inter Milan.
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