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Barcelona to Real Madrid: The secret behind Luis Figo’s intriguing transfer terms

Luis Figo sent shockwaves through the football world when he opted to leave Barcelona for arch rivals Real Madrid in the summer of 2000.

The Portuguese winger was one of the world's best footballers at the time and presidential hopeful Florentino Perez wanted to make a splash.

Perez had made contact with Figo's representatives to make a deal that would see him move from the Nou Camp to the Santiago Bernabeu if Perez was voted in as Real's new president after incumbent Lorenzo Sanz had called an early election.

The details of the deal have been revealed in a book by Columbia Business School adjunct professor Steven G. Mandis entitled 'The Real Madrid Way', highlighting the enormous personal risks current president Perez took to take Real Madrid from near bankruptcy and help make it the most valuable club in the world.

An excerpt from Mandis' book reads:

“The player they wanted most was Portuguese winger Luís Figo, who happened to play for arch rival Barcelona.

“Figo was quick, elegant, and highly skillful. He could provide accurate curling crosses to teammates that resulted in goals. He routinely beat defenders with his dribbling ability and quick stepovers.

Real Madrid already had homegrown superstar scorer Raúl. Pairing Raúl with Figo was an exciting idea because the Real Madrid community cherished beautiful attacking soccer. The prospect of getting Barcelona's best player made it even sweeter.

“In Spain, each player has a “clausula de rescisión," which is an official price at which his team has to sell a player. If the money is deposited with the league, the player's team (the selling team) can do nothing to stop it. The clausulas are purposely set exorbitantly high.

“In 2000, Barcelona would never have sold Figo to Real Madrid, but Florentino knew negotiations between Figo and Barcelona to renew Figo's contract were contentious and the buyout clause, set when Figo had signed his previous deal, was 10 billion Spanish pesetas (around €60 million or $64 million). It was a world-record transfer price for a player at the time, but manageable, if he could pull off a few other things he planned to do if he took over the presidency.

“Sid Lowe in Fear and Loathing in La Liga and others reported that Florentino offered Figo a guaranteed 400 million pesetas (around €2.4 million or $2.5 million) just to sign a contract legally requiring him to sign with Real Madrid in the highly improbable event of Florentino winning. If Figo renounced the deal, he would have to pay Florentino 5 billion pesetas (around €30 million or $32 million) in compensation.

“If Florentino lost the election, Figo would stay at Barcelona.

“To Figo and his agent, it seemed like free money, and it might provide leverage in contract negotiations with Barcelona. Regardless, when news of the deal between Florentino and Figo became public it sent shock waves throughout the soccer world.

“In 2000, the total cost for Figo's “clausula de rescisión" was €60 million ($64 million). If Real Madrid didn't have the cash, Florentino would have to put up the money or guarantee a loan for the amount, plus Florentino would be on the hook for the €18 million ($19 million) for budget expenditures.

"However, if Florentino didn't take this personal financial risk, there would not be a Figo deal."

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Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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