Portugal's best skipper - Luis Figo

It was under Luis Figo's leadership that Portugal reached the semis of the 2006 World Cup, the nation's best-ever finish in 40 years.

Talk about Portugal football and of the first names that pop up is that of Luis Figo. Born on November 4, 1972, Figo's tryst with football began on the streets of Cova da Piedade in Almada.

Early in his career, Figo started as a winger due to his speed and accuracy, which enabled him to create assists from the flanks. He was also known for his dribbling skills and was able to create scoring opportunities by linking up with the midfielders. But as he lost pace, he started playing as a playmaker in the role of an attacking midfielder. The transition from the flanks to the midfield made Figo a creative footballer, where he was able to create more scoring chances.

Figo's club career started at Sporting CP and he later moved to Barcelona in 1995. However, it was in 2000 when he made a controversial move to rival club Real Madrid for a record fee of €62 million. Barcelona fans felt betrayed, and on Figo's return to Camp Nou in a Real Madrid shirt, he was given the most acrimonious welcome ever, with banners  calling him a "Traitor", "Judas", "Scum", and "Mercenary" hung around the stadium.

 

His second outing at Barcelona the next year was also full of hate, with the entire stadium jeering at him. He was also on the receiving end of items being thrown by the crowd, which included a pig head. After Madrid, he moved to Inter Milan, which was his last club.

Figo played a key role in Portugal's qualification to the 2002 World Cup, scoring six goals from nine matches. It was Portugal's first appearance at the World Cup since 1986, but unfortunately the side suffered a group stage elimination, with Figo failing to score even once.

Portugal suffered a shock defeat to Greece in 2004 Euro final and Figo called it quits from international football due to an alleged rift with coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. But he soon reversed his decision and made a comeback during the 2006 World Cup qualifying.

It was under Figo's leadership that Portugal reached the semis of the 2006 World Cup, the nation's best-ever finish in 40 years. Portugal topped its group to move into the knockouts and went on to defeat Netherlands in the last 16 stage.

The side entered the last four after beating England on penalties, but in the semifinal, the side lost to an in-form French side, led by his former team-mate at Madrid, Zinedine Zidane.

The Portuguese finished his international career with 127 caps and 32 goals.