Figo: 'Real Madrid will survive without Ronaldo'

In Mumbai to attend the UEFA Global Fan event, Luis Figo spoke at length on a range of issues concerning Real Madrid, the demanding nature of a manager's job and much more.

Luis Figo says that Real Madrid will survive without his compatriot and its former star, Cristiano Ronaldo.   -  Special Arrangement

After Real Madrid’s ouster from the UEFA Champions League, fans have started debating whether Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus hurt the club’s chances this season.

But Portugal legend Luis Figo, who spent five years with the Galacticos, feels that Real Madrid will survive even without Ronaldo.

In Mumbai to attend the UEFA Global Fan event on Friday, Figo — who is also a UEFA Champions League ambassador — spoke at length with a select section of the media on a range of issues.

On whether manager Zinedine Zidane’s departure has hurt Real Madrid this season...

I think it’s not the moment to criticise because it was really a tough week for Real Madrid as they lost everything in one week. About Zidane, it was a personal decision he took last summer. They (Real) did not have much time to settle because they had little time to find the new coach after Zidane left. And this season, unlike earlier, did not start so well, then they changed coach, the players, they had the World Cup, different players joined the pre-season at different times. It is not always a good thing. They didn’t rest enough and so the results were not good. What they have to do I don’t know. I am not a part of Real Madrid system, I am an old player. I don’t want to talk about things that I am not directly involved in. I should respect the position (UEFA ambassador) that I’m in right now and also respect the people who are inside the club.

On the impact Christiano Ronaldo’s exit had on Real Madrid…

It is his decision and I don’t know what happened between him and the club that made him change clubs. He is the best football player in the world, so when he moves, of course, there will be a big impact. But I don’t know the reasons. All I can say is that Ronaldo is a great professional and is making history in football. Real Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world and football is like that. Real Madrid will survive without Ronaldo. Yes, Ronaldo is making history without Real, but that is football.

On how confident he is about Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari...

He is my friend and when you have friends in such positions, you always wish good for them. What is going to happen in the future, I don’t know. Because the world of coaches is very tough; it all depends on the results.

On what Real Madrid can do for the remainder of the season...

We always fight, we can fight for the league, until we have a chance.

On the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the Champions League for the first time…

VAR is part of our life. I think VAR must improve (like) everything in life. Because now, in our life, everyone is depending on technology and we have to adapt VAR to football in the best way possible. The biggest thing is to help the referees be more fair in terms of justice (decision), but of course if there is any new talk (problem), we have to improve like anything in life. This is the first season that the referees are trying VAR (in Champions League) and for sure it is a positive sign.

On whether Real Madrid fans are too demanding...

I know what Real Madrid fans want, what they want are good results. They demand a win; if you lose, they are sad. But are they more demanding than the other fans, I don’t think so. I think Manchester United and Valencia fans are demanding, too…

On who could win the Champions League this year...

If I had a crystal ball, I might be able to tell you. But theoretically, Manchester City and Barcelona have a good chance

On whether he would coach Real Madrid if given a chance...

Who, me? I’m very happy working with UEFA to develop football and I don’t have a licence to coach and it is very difficult without a licence in today’s world.

On how the emotion was playing for Barcelona and Real Madrid in El Classico...

The only difference was I played for two different teams, but my mentality was the same. I wanted to win every game. It doesn’t change too much because I was trying to help one project (team) at a time.

Spanish teams have won seven of the last Champions League titles. With clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City spending, do you see that trend changing?

I must say that if you invest and have the capacity to invest, (it) doesn’t assure you that you are going to win the best club competition in the world. Of course, it will give you an advantage in terms of making your teams strong, but it doesn’t assure that you will win the title. I think there will always be a balance between a team that is managed well and a team that spends, but you have to respect both. There are teams that have financial power to buy, but we have to respect the financial fair play.

On his idol Johan Cruyff…

Cryuff was one of the legendary football players and coaches in the world. One of the reasons I decided to go to Barcelona was to have a chance of working with him. Unfortunately, I could work only one year with him at Barcelona, but he left a lasting mark on my career. After 20 years, I can still say that he is with many of us, in terms of philosophy and training methods. It’s a pity that he is not there with us anymore. I always have great memories of my times with him.

On what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought to Manchester United...

I think Ole is doing great work since he came to United. I think the results are showing in the work he is doing. We have to congratulate him since he became the manager.

On how Ajax and Porto are benefiting from their youth systems...

It is always ideal that financially strong clubs form (develop) players and invest in the grassroots like Ajax, Sporting Lisbon and other teams. Because what you get from sponsors and stadiums (ticket revenue) is not always enough to buy big stars, so you have to invest in the grassroots.

On old friend Jose Mourinho’s future as a coach…

You know, the life of a coach is very difficult because you have to always finish winning. Everyone likes to win, but it is not always possible to win with 25 players. You know Jose is a really good coach. He has won so many titles in his career. Right now, it is a moment to reflect, think and improve his ideas and probably he will coach next year.

Read: Madrid stars playing for futures as summer rebuild looms

On his years in a star-studded Real Madrid…

It is always difficult to put together so many superstars in a team. For us, we enjoyed those moments, those years. But we also spent those moments when you don’t win, you are not happy. It was a mixed feel because as football players, you can’t be happy when you are not winning. So when you are winning, it is fantastic. Being together was a moment in football. We respect each other and the position each one of us had in the team. Because of that, we still have a good relation. Those are some moments we can remember for all our lives.

Are we seeing a shift in the European power centre with teams like Belgium and England doing well?

Yes, they have all the chances. In the UEFA Nations League, you can see England, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium do well. Belgium has a good generation of players, but like my generation, I think, we missed winning a title. It’s not easy to win. In terms of nations, Champions League, just one team can win. Every nation is strong, it’s very complicated.

  Dugout videos