The five players Madrid signed along with Luis Figo – & how they fared

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Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group A - Real Madrid v Spartak Moscow Luis Figo, Real Madrid, 20 September 2000

In the summer of 2000, Real Madrid shocked Spanish football by luring Barcelona’s star player – their club captain – Luis Figo across enemy lines.

Presidential candidate Florentino Perez pledged to sign the Portugal international if he won the election to replace Lorenzo Sans as the new man in charge at Madrid.

Perez delivered on his promise. It seemed improbable that someone adored by Barca fans – who enjoyed a trophy-packed five years at the Camp Nou – could move to arch-rivals. But at the end of July, 2000, the impossible became a reality. What many now regard as the most controversial transfer of all time went through.

Figo was the first player of Perez’s Galactico project as he joined Los Blancos for a then world-record fee. He was the catalyst for Madrid attracting the best in the world: David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo all followed – to name just a few.

His return to Catalonia was met with expected anger by Barca fans. It was a bitter pill to swallow witnessing first-hand their once adored winger donning the white Madrid strip in El Clasico.

Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff said after the match in October, 2000: “The Camp Nou gobbled up Figo and all of Real Madrid.”

Despite his unwelcoming first return to his old stomping ground – which got more vociferous each time he went back – Figo thrived wearing the famous No.10 jersey once worn by the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano. He was crowned as the 2000 Ballon d’Or winner and won multiple team honours – including the Champions League in 2002.

Figo’s five years in the Spanish capital cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players of his generation. But how did Madrid’s other signings in the summer of 2000 fare?

Flavio Conceicao

Highly-rated Brazilian midfielder Flavio Conceicao joined Los Blancos for a reported €26million from Deportivo. Despite much excitement about his arrival from the fellow Spanish outfit, Conceicao is now a forgotten man in the annals of history for many Madrid supporters.

He appeared just 45 times under Vincente del Bosque before he was loaned to German giants Borussia Dortmund. Conceicao struggled to ever rediscover the levels of performance that saw him earn a switch to the Bernabeu. Injuries took their toll and he eventually retired at 32 after spells with Galatasaray and Panathinaikos.

Claude Makelele

The backbone of a Madrid side that won seven trophies in his three years in Spain. Whilst Florentino Perez is credited as the man who masterminded Luis Figo’s welcome shock arrival at the club, in contrast, his assessment of the unassuming French midfielder following his departure to Chelsea couldn’t have been further from the truth.

He claimed Makelele “would not be missed” and “lacked talent.” Most would agree he got that one wrong; his performances in Jose Mourinho’s Premier League conquering side were consistently majestic. Madrid also failed to win a La Liga title for three years following his move to England.

“Seeing how things were happening at Madrid, I told Chelsea that if I was going to go, I’d go there,” Makelele said.

“I made them a promise and they did everything possible to sign me. I was 30-years-old at the time but they still paid for an important transfer.”

Pedro Munitis

Madrid jumped at the chance to sign Pedro Munitis after he enjoyed an excellent Euro 2020 for Spain. The forward’s standout performance in the competition came in a dramatic 4-3 win against Yugoslavia; a game in which Munitis scored an excellent goal.

He arrived from Racing Santander but only lasted three years at Madrid before he returned to his hometown club on loan before eventually joining Deportivo on a permanent deal. He struggled to be a regular fixture in the side – although he did win the Champions League.

Munitis told Spanish publication, A La Contra, why he felt he didn’t make the grade at the Bernabeu: “I was very shy, very introverted and, at Real Madrid, that doesn’t work.

“There were times when I was happy, but others when I felt rejected for the first time in my life.

“The fans whistled at me, and that was very hard. At first you don’t know how to accept it, but then I realised I should leave.”

Cesar Sanchez

Spanish goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez only made 20 La Liga appearances for Madrid in a five-year stint at the club. The small matter of one of the all time great goalkeepers – Iker Casillas – ahead of him in the pecking order, meant much of his time was spent warming the bench.

Sanchez’s biggest moment for Madrid came when Vicente del Bosque awarded him a start in the 2002 Champions League final. But his chance to shine on the big stage was cut short when he was cruelly forced off due to injury.

 

Santiago Solari

Santi Solari made the unusual step of joining from city rivals Atletico Madrid. The Argentina international went on to be a fan favourite at the Bernabeu – he won seven trophies in his five years at the club playing more than 200 games.

Solero also had a spell managing Madrid in 2018; it was a short tenure that lasted less than five months. He departed with the club 12 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and after a humiliating exit from the Champions League at the hands of Ajax.


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