Luis Figo joined Italian soccer giants Inter Milan on Thursday, ending
his five-year association with Spanish club Real Madrid.
Several European news agencies are reporting the 32-year-old Figo, voted
FIFA World Player of the Year in 2001, spurned an offer from English
team Liverpool in favour of Inter Milan, one of the biggest clubs in
Figo was slated to fly to Milan on Thursday and undergo medical
examinations with Inter Milan before the signing will be officially
Figo reportedly inked a $12.7-million US deal that will keep him at
Inter Milan for two seasons. Inter is hoping the addition of the
mercurial midfielder will help them capture their first Italian league
title since 1989.
"I chose this club because it has the same desire to win that I have,"
Figo was quoted in Thursday's Corriere della Sera. "I can't wait to
start this new adventure.
"The only thing I'm sorry about is that there were too many
intermediaries involved in these negotiations. It only required two days,
yet it's gone on for two months."
Figo, whose contract with Madrid was to expire in June 2006, wanted to
leave the club after falling out with coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo when
the Brazilian left him out of the starting lineup for Madrid's final
eight league games last season.
Figo is the third Real Madrid player to join Inter Milan this off-season,
joining defender Walter Samuel and midfielder Santiago Solari, both from
Considered one of the best players of his era, Figo is renowned for
putting on dizzying and dazzling displays with his ability to dribble
around or past opponents seemingly at will, his devastating free kicks
and keeping his strikers serviced with accurate crosses and long passes.
Figo first rose to fame in 1991 when he guided Portugal to victory at
the 1991 FIFA World Youth Cup.
After beginning his pro career in Portugal, Figo went to Spain in 1995
when he joined FC Barcelona. He helped the Catalan side win two Spanish
league titles (1998, 1999), two Spanish Cups (1997, 1998) and the UEFA
Cup Winners' Cup in 1997.
Five seasons in Barcelona were enough for the Portuguese, as he joined
the club's bitter archrival Real Madrid in 2000 in a then-record
$56-million US transfer.
The move paid off dividends for Figo as he won the Balon D'Or (the
Golden Ball) award as the European Player of the Year in his first
season with Madrid.
Soon, other global soccer super stars joined him at Real Madrid France's
Zinedine Zidane, Brazil's Ronaldo and England's David Beckham and the
side dubbed the galacticos would go on to win two league titles (2001,
2003), the UEFA Champions League in 2001, the European Supercup and the
Intercontinental Cup (both 2002).
Figo is expected to make his Inter Milan debut on Aug. 20 against
defending league champions Juventus in the Italian Supercup, the annual
curtain raiser on the Italian soccer season.