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Spivs and charlatans: the dark story of Luis Figo’s transfer to Real Madrid | the league

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RResearch by Edward Geiselman, a former professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, has supported the theory that someone who lies often breaks eye contact and looks away at a crucial moment during questioning. While it’s easy to read way too much into someone’s mannerisms or mannerisms, it’s quite telling that in the recently released Netflix documentary The Figo Affair, twice when the eponymous subject is asked directly about his seismic transference from Barcelona to Real Madrid, he gives one-line responses during which his normally inscrutable gaze is broken by a noticeable off-camera gaze.

The two answers came 22 years apart. “Listen, I have a contract and I expect to fulfill it,” he told an inquisitor in July 2000, before his hugely controversial departure from Barcelona, ​​his eyes averting as the sentence ended. More than two decades later, as an over-willing participant in the documentary that chronicles a deal that marked the start of Real Madrid galactic era, Figo is asked directly if he meant it when he insisted he wouldn’t leave Barcelona days before his departure. “Yes, at the time I thought so,” he said, glancing to his left, with the hint of a smile playing on his lips.

Of course, the Portugal international may have dropped truth bombs on both occasions, as The Figo Affair makes it abundantly clear that he seemed a reluctant participant in the barely credible deal that made him an outcast at Barcelona. . During his unveiling as a Real Madrid player, Figo could hardly have looked more miserable as he was presented with his shirt by club legend Alfredo di Stéfano, looking less like the world’s most expensive footballer than he did. to a hostage posing for photos his captors needed to use as proof of life. “I wasn’t in the frame of mind to express my happiness,” he told the camera crew. “I was there but I was not there.”

Seeking to be elected president of Real Madrid ahead of incumbent Lorenzo Sanz, who had just won two Champions League titles in three years after a long drought, Florentino Pérez promised Real Madrid fans he would pay the 60 euro release clause. million euros on the contract of Luis Figo to bring the player from Barcelona during the election, or to pay the renewal of his subscriptions in the event of non-receipt of his man. This, it should be noted, dates back to 2000, when that kind of money bought you much more than a half-decent Premier League full-back.

As Figo felt underappreciated at Barca, where he was the team’s undisputed talisman, his agent José Vega was approached by former Portuguese player turned midfielder Paolo Futre, who was working on Pérez’s behalf. He rejected overtures. Despite this, Futre told Pérez that a deal was possible but said Vega wanted a €10m fee. “And that’s the day the Luis Figo saga began,” he explains. “It’s amazing that it started with a lie.”

Where is it? The creators of The Figo Affair have brought together all the major players in this particular saga to explain their memories of a tumultuous few weeks in the Spanish offseason of 2000 and it quickly becomes apparent that many of those memories are sketchy at best and dishonest at worst. . . Figo, Futre, Pérez and Vega all present their own often conflicting accounts of the move, as well as Joan Gaspart, whose unenviable first task as Barcelona’s newly elected president that summer was to inform the club’s incandescent fans that their best player had just been stolen by their fiercest rivals, Real Madrid.

With or without his client’s consent, Vega had signed a contract with Pérez which meant that if the player didn’t make it to the Spanish capital, someone – most likely Figo’s terrified agent – would be at the president’s mercy. from Real for £19m. Figo claims he knew nothing about it, while Vega insists he did it with his client’s consent. While Barcelona could have paid the penalty clause and kept their Figo, paying so much for a player they already owned would have reduced him to international laughing stock, not least because it was that money with which Pérez planned to renew the les. subscriptions of Real supporters if the transfer failed.

“The main reason I left was because they liked me and really wanted me,” Figo reveals. “In the end, I thought of myself. Was it selfish? Maybe. Did I earn more money? Yes, but if I had stayed, I would have earned the same Not only that, he would also have avoided the trauma of being brutally abused and branded a traitor among other more disreputable epithets by 120,000 Barcelona fans waving banknotes, many of which rained down bottles, coins money, lighters and a knife on him on his traumatic return to the Camp Nou three months later, it would be another two years before the infamous pig’s head was thrown at him as he went for a corner.

“Things have gone too far, a line has been crossed,” says Pep Guardiola, who is part of a supporting cast of former teammates in The Figo Affair. “I must be one of the few sportsmen who had to play with 120,000 against me – and focused on me, not the team,” Figo would later tell The Guardian’s Sid Lowe as he recalled the 2-0 defeat of Real.

The Figo Affair is the entertaining tale of a high-profile transfer reek of subterfuge, clouded in almost relentless uncertainty and driven by the kind of duplicitous chancers, spivs and charlatans that have epitomized this horse trade ever since. Although he benefits from 22 years of hindsight on an ultimately successful career decision he was rather dragged into, the subject of the documentary seems to remain a bit torn about his move even now. “I try not to have regrets because I don’t think they’re helpful to anyone,” he says of the unspecified mistakes he’s made in life moments before the end credits, his black eyes staring unflinchingly at the barrel of the camera. .