The year 2000 symbols the biggest betrayal any ‘Cule’ ever witnessed. Do you think the Neymar case was a bad move? Hang on tight. 20 years passed since Luis Figo, the Portuguese star and second captain, left Barcelona. Furthermore, he left to the rivals from Madrid, becoming the first ‘Galactico’ of their president Perez. The Betrayal story of Luis Figo relates to money and to the electoral campaigns of 2000, in Madrid and in Barcelona.
Figo arrived to Barcelona in 1995 “by mistake”, after he was banned from playing in Italy. When the Portuguese left Sporting Lisbon, he first wanted to come to Italy. His agent, Jose Viera signed a contract with both Parma and Juventus. Needless to say that signing a double contract was illegal, so UEFA banned him from playing in Italy for two years. In that point, Johan Cruyff signed Figo as a young talent for his last year as a coach. Under Cruyff, Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal Figo established himself as a starter.
Signing a new contract
By the year 1999, and after helping the team achieve two consecutive league titles, Figo renewed his contract. With his new contract, Figo improved his salary significantly. Furthermore, his release clause grew as well.
The 1999/2000 season ended badly, Van Gaal resigned and president Nunez retired after decades. Figo himself became on of the best players in the world. Moreover, he established himself in Barcelona, sharing the 2nd spot with Rivaldo in every fans popularity poll(Pep had the first spot). In Barcelona Figo opened 3 Bars and 2 restaurants, and it seemed like he would settle there for life. But as he became one of the best players in the world, Figo wanted another pay raise that would see him as the biggest star in the club.
Nunez, however, was reluctant to do so, and by May 2000 he left his office and Figo had to wait for the new president to arrive.
Florentino Perez becomes the president of Madrid
Meanwhile, Real Madrid were also in the middle of an election campaign. The team just won their 2nd Champions league trophy in 3 years. However, the team finished 5th in the league, and their fans were unhappy with how things were going in the locker room. Their president, Lorenzo Sanz, felt confident after winning the Champions League trophy, and he called for elections. Back then no one thought that Perez would run after a miserable loss in the 1995 elections.
Florentino was like ‘the Messiah’ for the Madrid fans. Not only did he promise to save Madrid from an economic collapse, he promised that Figo, the best player in the world, would be a Madridista. Moreover, he was photographed with a preliminary agreement guaranteeing his arrival, and if that does not happen, the president will pay all of Madrid’s Socios fees for the 00/01 season, on the order of $ 45 million.
In time it was revealed that Figo’s agent at the time, Jose Vieira, had signed with Florentino the pre-agreement to play in Madrid if Florentino won. The agent claimed he only found out after a while that he signed: if Figo refuses to play, he will be forced to pay the 45 million to Florentino.
Vieira later claimed that the signing of the contract was for bargaining purposes only with the new Barça management for a superstar contract and nothing more. The newspapers in Barcelona claimed that Figo already signed for Madrid before he even started talking about improving his contract with Barcelona.
The betrayal of Figo becomes a reality
Florentino made the incredible turnaround and won the election, even though all the newspapers predicted a small victory for Lorenzo Sanz. After the win he kept quiet about Figo. He said he would wait for the end of the Barcelona elections held a few days later. Joan Gaspart won that elections and became the new president of FC Barcelona.
In this time between the Madrid election and ours, no one knew where Figo was. Eventually ‘Sport’ and ‘Mundo Deportivo’ found him on some remote beach in Portugal. They made a double front pages and tool a picture of him with a Barça shirt. He then said: ‘I am staying in Barcelona. Florentino is a liar. I am the only one who determines what will be in my future. I have a business in Barcelona, and I want to stay there after football. It doesn’t matter if Florentino wins or loses, I will stay in Barcelona, make a record of it. “
Gaspart won and it was alleged at the time that Figo sent his agent to Gaspart so that the president would pay the price of breaking the contract and keep the Portuguese at the club. Gaspart refused to pay, saying, “I do not intend to fund Madrid’s Socios fees.”
24 hours later, Madrid introduced Figo as thir new player, and the betrayal completed. Some veterans said he was photographed with a shy face, others will say he was photographed with a face laughing all the way to the bank, at the expense of his fans.
The day after the ‘Shock’
In the days after the move, in a very unusual move, the official store invited any fan with a Figo shirt, to take his name out of the holy shirt, for free and replace it with another player’s name. They ran it for 3 weeks and said that tens of thousands of fans came there. Figo closed the 3 bars he had and 2 more restaurants in town because no one went in there.
One has to be very naive to think that Figo went like an innocent sheep after his agent that made him a trap. Why even sign an agreement with Madrid? Can you imagine Iniesta signing a pre-agreement with Madrid to get a contract at the level of Messi? Because of this greed the fanst hate him so much. Moreover, the lies he spread would not have embarrassed Pinocchio. When the newspapers in Madrid predicted the day of his presentation, he gave his last interview with the media in Barcelona. On that interview he said: “On this date I will be with my friends in Barcelona.”
The total ‘shock’ on Barcelona Streets changed over time into an abysmal hatred of the traitor. Pep himself said after that pig head clasico in 2002: “I can understand the crowd. You can hate someone so much only after you loved him so much. ”