After waving goodbye to David Beckham, European football was on the verge of losing another legend in May when Luís Figo mulled over a lucrative offer from a club in Qatar. The move, though, collapsed and when the former Portuguese international opted to stay with FC Internazionale Milano instead, he had one goal in mind - to help the Italian champions win what he describes as "the queen of all European competitions" for the first time since 1965.
"I believe we have everything required to go all the way, but obviously we'll also need a bit of luck during the competition," Figo told uefa.com as he looked ahead to the new UEFA Champions League season. "We're determined to give something very important to this club and the UEFA Champions League is surely the queen of all European club competitions. Winning the UEFA Champions League is always difficult and very complicated because there are so many competitive teams with great quality. We just have to keep working hard because Inter are a great club and deserve to compete for the most important titles every year."
The UEFA Champions League dream and the affection shown by the entire Inter family were the key factors behind his decision to stay. Massimo Moratti personally asked Figo to change his mind. The Nerazzurri president, though, refused to take all the credit for convincing him to remain another season. "Figo's decision to stay means he is almost like a new signing for us," Moratti said. "We would have needed two players to replace someone like him. I have only given my voice to a collective wish. The fans, the coach, his team-mates, everyone wanted him to stay and I also think he has a brilliant future ahead of him. We're planning to strengthen our international relations and
Figo is a great person, known and appreciated everywhere. He would fit this role perfectly. We have already talked about it. I hope he will accept this offer when he decides to stop playing."
Before Figo's arrival from Real Madrid CF in 2005 Inter had last won the Scudetto in 1989. Since then the 34-year-old, who was capped 127 times by Portugal, has helped the Nerazzurri claim the title twice, as well as the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup. "I don't what happened before I came here so I cannot say why Inter were not winning," he explained. "However I was lucky enough to arrive here and have the pleasure of winning immediately. We worked very hard to win those titles and we've won four or five in just a couple of years. Inter fans hadn't celebrated for a few years so we're proud to have given them the chance to do so by winning a great Scudetto like we did last season."
The Nerazzurri claimed a record 97 points en route to winning the title, 22 more than their closest rivals AS Roma. Figo may not be the only reason behind Inter's dominance but the leader of Portugal's golden generation certainly brought with him the class and winning mentality needed to help turn Inter from challengers to champions on the domestic front. After losing to Valencia CF in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League last season, the aim now is to make that experience tell in Europe. "[Losing to Valencia] was a bad moment but you can't win everything," said the former European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year. "It's very difficult to find a team which is able to win on both domestic and European fronts during the same season. We had a very good year, unfortunately it was not enough to win in Europe. But I'm sure the entire club is as ready for another shot at it as the players are."
Figo played 64 league games during his first two seasons in Italy but the veteran is willing to cut his workload if it would result in placing a second UEFA Champions League winner's medal alongside the one he earned with Madrid in 2002. "Every player would like to be on the pitch all the time," he said. "I will always try to be ready and then we'll see how many games I play. I will always respect [coach Roberto] Mancini's decisions. If we win the UEFA Champions League I will be happy even if I haven't played as much as I did during the first two seasons. We know it's not easy but we have to try."
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