Sitting down with Luis Figo ahead of the FIFA World Cup

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June 7, 2018

 

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Question: Can you tell us about your experiences and emotions of playing for Portugal in the World Cup?

Luis Figo: I think it's great to qualify and play. I just played two World Cups and they were different kinds of feelings because the first one in Korea, Japan in 2002, was difficult for me because I was injured for part of the season and the result for Portugal was not positive. The other one, in 2006 in Germany, was fantastic, even if we did not reach the final. I returned to the national team after a break and we reached the semi-finals, where we lost to France. It’s always very impressive to play for your country in the World Cup. For a player it's the maximum. For the nation it’s a maximum.

 

Question: Can you pick one particular moment in your two World Cups that you regard as a highlight?

Luis Figo: Well, yes, of course. I think in 2006 we produced a fantastic performance, we just missed a bit of luck against France because we lost 1-0 with a penalty in the semi-final. So we were very close to our goal [of the World Cup Final].

 

Question: What do you think of the Portugal team today compared to that team of 2002 and 2006?

Luis Figo: Well, I think Portugal has always had fantastic players, both before and after my generation. It is always hard to compare players from different generations because the characteristics and the times are totally different. But, at this moment, after Portugal won the European Championship, we have a consistent team that normally does not concede a lot of goals and is a mix between young players and experienced players that play in the best club teams in the world. And we have one of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, who is very important for the team and the country.

 

Question: Would you rate Ronaldo at the moment as the best player in the world?

Luis Figo: Well, I think it’s between him and Messi. The last ten years they were considered the best footballers in the world so it depends a little bit what kind of season and performance they have individually and collective. It depends what the team wins too. So yes, this year was Ronaldo. Next year we have to wait to see. It depends on what they do in the World Cup too.

 

Question: Do you think Cristiano needs to have a good World Cup to be remembered as a great player?

Luis Figo: No, I don't think like that. I think he is making history in football, because what he has achieved is very, very difficult to achieve. So I think he will be remembered for all these kind of things that he has already done and I hope that he continues to do in the future.

 

Question: Do you think he should stay at Real Madrid? There has been talk that maybe he would move?

Luis Figo: Well I don't know. I think these kinds of situations depend on a personal decision. It does not matter what I think. Real Madrid, if you play there for long, it's the best team to play for. And then if he feels recognised or not, if he feels bad or not, if he feels satisfied, if he feels well, then that is the question that he has to answer.

 

Question: As European Champions, how confident are you that Portugal will have a good World Cup? How far do you think they might go?

Luis Figo: Well I think you can't live from the past so it doesn't matter if you are European Champions or not, I think it's a totally different competition. Another culture, another style of football, and one more round too, so it's much more difficult to reach the final. And their chances right now are equal to the other teams, so I think the important thing is to go step by step and focus on getting through the group stage and then everything can happen.

 

Question: What about the other big teams, the favourites in the World Cup. Who are the ones that you think are likely to do well? Do you have a feeling for who might win the World Cup or which two teams might get to the final?

Luis Figo: Well, I always say that my favourites are the teams who have more experience in the World Cup and have more history because that helps in my opinion. So for me, I think Brazil this year is favourite. And there is Spain. I think they are the two teams with more quality. Spain will have one of the best teams, but perhaps they don't score enough goals. They have good strikers but they miss the opportunity to score, unlike Raul and Torres before. I would like to have a final like that: Brazil v Spain. Or Portugal v Spain, or Portugal v Brazil would be good for me.

 

Question: You haven't mentioned Germany. They always seem to do well.

Luis Figo: Well, I don't know, Germany's always favourite, but this year I don't see it.

 

Question: What about Brazil? How do you rate Neymar?

Luis Figo: Well Neymar for me is an amazing football player. I think he's one of the best. I think in the future he will be the best football player in the world. He's fast, he's amazing. He has everything to be the No.1. Brazil is always strong. They have so many millions of persons in the country, it's more easy to produce football players, than say in Portugal. We just have 11.

 

Question: What about Lionel Messi and Argentina? Is Argentina strong enough to help him to do well in the World Cup?

Luis Figo: Well, they have the best football player, but they were struggling to qualify and the friendly game here against Spain (losing 6-1) was a disaster. It will be a surprise what they can do. I think they have always had good players and they have good players. I don't know the reason they're struggling in qualification despite having the best football players. So they can surprise everyone. And Argentina is Argentina. It's one of the teams who have experienced success, but in the last World Cups they didn't get the results. But they are always there.

 

Question: Moving on from the World Cup, what was your reaction to Zinedine Zidane's decision to leave Real Madrid?

Luis Figo: Well, it's a surprise like for everybody, but I think it's a personal decision. He thought that it was the right decision for him and for the club. And took it. I don't know why. I haven't spoken with him, but I think he was feeling that it was the best decision for the future of the club.

 

Question: Did it surprise you?

Luis Figo: Yes, of course, because after you win a Champions League, you don't expect that decision, but it is what it is.

 

Question: Real Madrid is such a big club in the world, what special qualities does a manager need to have?

Luis Figo: Well I think it's important to know how to manage the dressing room, not only in Real Madrid these days. You have to know that the club is special. To know what is the environment of the club in terms of press. Of course, you have to know the players and the league. And I think the most important is to be a calm person, a sensitive person. I think those are the qualities.

 

Question: Can you tell us who you think the new manager should be?

Luis Figo: I have no idea. Normally you would come with a list of coaches [to choose from] when the situation is like this, but most of the top coaches are in other clubs already so it's going to be for the Real Madrid president to make a decision. He takes one of the coaches that is available, that is a big name, or he goes for a guy that is starting, or a new Zidane, as he was three years ago. I don't know.

 

Question: Did Luis Figo ever want to be a manager?

Luis Figo: No, no. It's nothing that attracted me. I think you can be a very good coach and still not succeed, because so much is not depending on your view. And I like to depend on me.

 

Question: What does being a Laureus Academy Member mean to you?

Luis Figo: Well, it's an honour of course, to be part of this family, first of all. And to be surrounded with so many important athletes in the different areas. I'm very happy to belong and to have the chance to be part of different kind of ideas and projects too.