Can you imagine if Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were to sign for Man United and start kissing United’s crest? Or if El Hadji Diouf signed for Celtic declaring his love for the Bhoys? Or Wayne Rooney was to join Liverpool with a brand spanking new LFC tattoo? A decade ago, something similar happened at football’s highest level.
The year is 2000 and Luis Figo is Barça club captain and a major fan favourite with the Catalan faithful. Having won various silverware with Barcelona for the previous five seasons, Figo is adored by the club’s supporters and the 100,000 strong members. Then, out of the blue, an offer from heated rivals Real Madrid for the midfielder comes in – and it’s accepted. Luis Figo became a Madrid player. Imagine if Messi was to wear the white of Madrid now? There’d be chaos. There was chaos when Figo made his return to the Camp Nou in a Madrid jersey. Just watch these incredible hostile scenes below.
Figo was jeered and whistled whenever he went near the ball and subjected to volleys of missiles (ranging from bottles of urine, glass whiskey bottles, coins, golf balls and, famously, a pig’s head) from the crowd during the second half. The 0-0 draw was suspended for 13 minutes by the referee, who took the players off because of fears for their safety. “My only concern was to play football and do my part”, said Figo some years later, “but of course I was a bit worried that I could be harmed, because you never know if there’s some crazy guy who will do something stupid”.
Bill Shankly once famously said “Football isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s much more important than that”. Luis Figo nearly knew the difference between life and death because of football. No wonder Gary Neville never joined Liverpool.