REAL MADRID

Figo talks leaving Barça, Florentino Pérez and joining Inter

The Portuguese spoke on Spanish radio and gave his version of the events that surrounded his move from one side of the Barcelona-Real Madrid divide to the other.

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Figo talks leaving Barça, Florentino Pérez and joining Inter

Luis Figo, the man who became the focus of the Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry back in 2000 when his contentious move from the former to join the latter inspired one of the nastiest Clásico atmospheres of all time, appeared on Michael Robinson’s radio programme 'Acento Robinson' to talk about his move to the Bernabéu, dealing with the hatred of the Barça fans and leaving Madrid for Inter Milan.

Joining Barça: "For a variety of reasons it was impossible to lock down a move to Italy [where I wanted to go originally] and the opportunity arose to play in Spain. I was happy to join Barça despite not making it to Serie A, which was my objective at that time in my career. It also gave me the chance to work closely with the footballing legend that was Johan Cruyff, who is no longer with us”.

Time with Barcelona: "I had a fantastic time there. I don’t renounce my past. What happened should be remembered, that was part of my career and was also a part of the club’s history. Without the things I learned there my playing career would have been very different.”

The pact with Florentino Pérez to sign for Madrid: "I never made a commitment with Florentino, I made one with Real Madrid. Florentino, who was a presidential candidate, brokered a deal with my agent, not with me because I was under contract and couldn’t sign an agreement with someone running for office. During that time me and my agent had a spoken relationship, there wasn’t a contract tying me to him. What they’ve said are lies. What happened next was my decision. Seeing what the situation was and with the commitment of my agent, I decided to sign for Real Madrid.”

The Cruyff-Nuñez clash: "We can learn from the past. I’m not looking for someone to blame nor am I calling myself a victim. The president at the time was informed about the situation, didn’t give it any mind and eventually I wound up moving. Nuñez told me “bring me the money and you can leave” and that’s what ended up happening.”

The reaction when you left Barcelona: "I’m not sure I was ready for it, I didn’t know what the reaction would be like. You make the decision and hope that you can do your best on a professional and emotional level. I had no idea how I’d be greeted. That was a different time, Madrid were going through a transitional period and as a player you would have to go out and face the press regularly. Players are more protected now.”

Returning to the Camp Nou: "Playing in front of 100,000 who are against you is completely different when you’re expecting it compared with when you’re not. So it would have been a lot worse had I been booed at the Bernabéu. That would have made me think my career was over. People don’t talk about the violence my return provoked… These days Luis Figo is considered the bad guy, but what can you do?”

First season at Real Madrid: "I was very happy with winning the league. Winning the title in my first season filled me with enormous satisfaction because we had to deal with the immense pressure.”

Second season: "Madrid were extremely strong and we won important titles. Scooping the European Cup helped us a lot. I was a great year in spite of my knee injury and I was delighted to win the title as, on a personal level, I really wanted it.”

Third season: "After being involved in a terrible World Cup campaign my main concern was staying fit during the summer before the third season. I reestablished myself in the team after the holidays and began the season without suffering any serious pain. And winning another two trophies was wonderful.”

Final season at Real Madrid: "My last season was a strange one. Having three managers made it a very different experience to what I was used to. Camacho was appointed but spent very little time at the club. Then it was Remón and then Vanderlei Luxemburgo took over in January. When you start like that, it’s to be expected that things will go badly.”

Signing for Inter Milan: "I was fortunate to join Inter during a dominant phase in the club’s history. When I decided to leave Real Madrid, I got offers from England but when the chance to play in Italy came about I met with Moratti and made my mind up there and then. I was a professional and personal challenge, I knew I could continue playing at the top level and at the time I wasn’t playing in Madrid.”