Real Madrid successfully managing to lure Luis Figo away from bitter rivals Barcelona in 2000 was like ‘ripping out the hearts’ of everyone in Spain.
That is according to Los Blancos’ president Florentino Perez, who was quoted in the Daily Express as he revealed how tough it was to prise the legendary winger away from the Nou Camp 17 years ago.
Figo completed a shock transfer from Catalunya to the Santiago Bernabeu for a fee worth in the region of €60m – then a world record transfer fee – with the switch making the fierce rivalry between the two La Liga giants even more contentious in the seasons that followed.
Whatever boos Gatlin gets, won’t be anything on Luis Figo back at the Nou Camp in 2000 with Real Madrid. My ears still recovering
— Matt Dickinson (@DickinsonTimes) August 6, 2017
The Portugal international was the subject of plenty of ire from Barcelona fans after that move, with one fan infamously throwing a pig’s head onto the pitch during one El Clasico match at the Nou Camp in November 2002 as Figo went to take a corner for Real.
The fall out between the two heavyweight clubs since then has only grown steadily worse, and Perez admitted for the first time just how much of a struggle it was to persuade Figo to join them from La Blaugrana.
He said: “Nobody had spent 60 million euros in 2000 I convinced him but it was not easy, he was the captain of Barcelona! It was like ripping out the hearts of our countrymen.”
Figo spent five seasons with Real, making 245 appearances in all competitions and lifting eight trophies including the 2002 Champions League and two La Liga titles, before his departure in the summer of 2005.
That period at the very start of the 21st Century brought about the era of the ‘Galacticos’ at Real Madrid, with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Ronaldo all playing alongside Figo between 2000 and 2007.
Perez went on to state that he promised the 127-times capped international that he would build a hugely successful team around him and, considering the trophy haul Real nabbed during that spell, he kept to his word.
Perez added: “I told him that we wanted to build this project around him. Then came [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldo, [David] Beckham, and we created the phenomenon of the Galacticos.”