Luis Figo was a 2002 UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid and so naturally is going to lean towards his old club come Saturday night when Los Blancos meet crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid in the 2014 final in Lisbon. Figo crossed the great divide from Barcelona in a then world record R37 million move from Barcelona.
Figo fancies Real to do the business in Lisbon, “I think Real Madrid is going to win because I am a supporter of Real Madrid and I played for Real Madrid. They have been going after the Champions for a long time: the last time they won it I was there, 2002. So this is quite special. I hope that they will win, but you know that in football in the final anything can happen. Atletico Madrid is having a fantastic and amazing season, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. I think it is a special final because no one could expect that two teams in the same city could be going to play in the final of Champions League and I think it’s going to be a fantastic moment for all the supporters. I think there are a lot of people going to Lisbon from Madrid, in a car, in a plane, whatever. I think it’s going to be a party, so they have to enjoy this because playing in the final of the Champions League is a moment that you never know is going to happen again and for sure the atmosphere is going to be amazing. There is a huge rivalry in the city, but I think if the rivalry is just in a sporting way it’s OK. The problem is, if it’s like fanaticism that kind of stuff, that is not good for the sport. But if they just enjoy the moment it’s fantastic.
Owing to the bitterness that exists in the “El Clasico” battle between Real and Barcelona, it would seem that the gloss is less shiny over the Madrid derby. Not so, says Figo, “This is a really important ‘derby’ because of the level of the game. And I think the Champions League final is the best competition between clubs. It gives you a lot of prestige. There is always rivalry between teams from the same city, but it gives more importance as the final is watched by millions of people.”
These days Figo is a Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Ambassador. Having also played for Barcelona, the former Portugal forward is in a good position to assess the transition taking place at the Nou Camp. Gerardo Martino left at the end of the La Liga season and was replaced by Luis Enrique, a former Barca teammate of Figo’s who, incidentally enough, also played for Real Madrid. “I think that the changes in the cycle happen systematically. Sport does not guarantee victory and the same team cannot win always. If not, it would be really boring! So despite the fact that FC Barcelona is not in the final, it does not mean that they do not have the quality for being there. I think in this case the responsible people should take this decision, but I think FC Barcelona have a defined philosophy and they have to find someone that goes with it,” says Figo.
Figo was speaking to Laureus.com. The UEFA Champions League final kicks off at 20:45 CAT on Saturday night at the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon. Real Madrid are looking for a tenth European Cup title while Atleti have never won Europe’s grand prize.