Lisbon: Luis Figo was the subject of a highly controversial transfer in the summer of 2000, when he quit Barcelona for rivals Real Madrid for a then world record fee of €58,5m.
The gifted winger spent five years at the Santiago Bernabeu, before completing a free transfer to Inter Milan, whom he quit at the end of last season to retire from football.
Figo, who signed for Real just one day after Florentino Perez was elected, has now revealed that he quit the Camp Nou for being unhappy with the terms of his contract.
"At the time, Lazio were available to match my release clause and, as such, I told him [then Barca president Luiz Nunez] I had an offer and, because of that, I would like to review my terms and match them to the best ones the club were offering," Figo told Diario Economico.
"I was at Euro 2000 in Holland and things were going fine. However, the possibility of one of the candidates to the Real presidency, Florentino Perez, signing me emerged and I spoke to president Nunez about that offer.”
"I did not want to quit Barcelona at the time, I just wanted them to acknowledge my quality, and he was just saying he would wait for someone to pay my buy-out clause.”
"The whole transfer process to Real was curious. After Euro, I was on holiday in Algarve and then I flew to Sardinia with my family and, at that time, I had not decided what to do because, on those days, the Real elections would take place.”
"On one of those days, I had several intermediaries at my door trying to convince me to sign for Real and some of them crying in front of my wife, because they had assumed commitments which, if they were not to happen, would have a high cost and they would be the ones to pay.”
"The Barcelona presidential candidate, Joan Gaspart, wanted me to continue, but I did not trust the promises he had made me. Finally, Perez won the elections at Real and I assumed the responsibility of finalizing what [agent] Jose Veiga had agreed weeks before.”
"I flew to Lisbon the day after the elections, Monday, and I went to Veiga`s office. When I arrived and entered the room, there were about ten people sitting around a table, all trying to convince me to sign on that moment. That`s when I called my wife and told her, `That`s it, I am of Real Madrid`. I did not return to Barcelona."
Figo added he does not regret signing for Real Madrid, whom he describes as being "the most demanding club" of his career, despite his difficult relationship with Barcelona fans from that moment on.
"I do not regret changing to Real Madrid, it was a difficult decision, because I had to start over, but it was also a great challenge."
The former Sporting prodigy added that he has ended his career the way he wanted, saying, "Any player wants to be eternal, play forever and always be at their best.”
"At the same time, we have to be realistic, and, as such, I decided I wanted to end in a positive way, in a great a club and winning titles, I wanted to quit with a good taste on my mouth, instead of in a second level team or injured."
It's incredible, amazing, I feel goofy.