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EURO 2004 spotlight: How brilliant was Portugal's Luís Figo?

UEFA.com admires Luís Figo, whose illustrious career spanning almost two decades included leading Portugal to the UEFA EURO 2004 final on home soil.

EURO 2004 highlights: Spotlight on Luís Figo
EURO 2004 highlights: Spotlight on Luís Figo

Ballon d'Or winner Luís Figo was known for step-overs and feints, pinpoint passing and free-kick expertise. Embracing the captain's armband, the 'Galáctico' led Portugal to the runners-up spot at UEFA EURO 2004.

EURO 2004

• Greece had to pinch themselves in the opener as they led Portugal 2-0 in Porto. Cristiano Ronaldo's last-gasp goal, stemming from Figo's corner, served only as late consolation. In Figo's eyes, the hosts' 2-1 defeat was not a "fair result". "We tried to fight but we lost the second ball often and lost control of midfield," he assessed.

EURO 2004 highlights: Portugal edge England in penalty drama
EURO 2004 highlights: Portugal edge England in penalty drama

• Captain Fernando Couto was promptly dropped and Figo, his deputy, stepped up. Portugal showed their mettle, downing ten-man Russia 2-0 four days later. A 1-0 victory over neighbours Spain came next, Figo's move into a more central attacking role proving a Luiz Felipe Scolari masterstroke. The No7 supplied substitute Nuno Gomes for the second-half winner.

• Trailing England 1-0 in the quarter-final, Figo was substituted in the 75th minute. Portugal went on to win on penalties.

Figo stars in semi-final win against Netherlands
Figo stars in semi-final win against Netherlands

• Maniche curled in the decisive goal in the 2-1 semi-final victory over the Netherlands, but Figo took the man of the match award after skippering Portugal to their first major tournament final.

• In another shock, Portugal became the first host nation to lose a EURO final as Greece triumphed once more over Scolari's men, this time 1-0 in Lisbon. Announcing his international retirement following the upset, an agonising end to Figo's glittering Portugal career was reversed when he returned for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

What you might not know

• Part of Portugal's 'golden generation', Figo starred alongside Rui Costa and João Pinto in the FIFA World Youth Championship-winning side in 1991. The group went on to reach the semi-finals at EURO 2000 and the 2006 World Cup, and finished runners-up at EURO 2004.

Portugal national anthem: Figo and Co at EURO 2004's final
Portugal national anthem: Figo and Co at EURO 2004's final

• Figo was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 2000 – the year he moved from Barcelona to Liga rivals Real Madrid – to become the second Portuguese player, after Eusébio, to collect the prestigious prize. In 2001, he won the FIFA World Player of the Year award, pipping Manchester United's David Beckham.

• For his services to Portugal, Figo was awarded a knighthood in the Ordem do Infante Dom Henrique (Order of Prince Henry) in 2001.

• During his Blaugrana spell, Figo and his wife Helen owned a Japanese restaurant in Barcelona. "It didn't last long" because of his transfer to the Merengues and the Spanish capital.

• Figo, who believes "Portuguese people have natural ability to learn new languages," speaks five: Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian and French. Although he never plied his trade in England, the footballing polyglot said: "I had to improve my English to seduce my [Swedish] wife."

• Figo claimed his first UEFA club silverware with Barcelona in the 1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. They also lifted the UEFA Super Cup that season. In 2001/02, he won the UEFA Champions League and Super Cup with Real Madrid.

What he said

"Portugal have fantastic players and Portugal also have young players and the country needs to be happy for the future as we have a great team developing."

EURO 2004 final highlights: Greece 1-0 Portugal
EURO 2004 final highlights: Greece 1-0 Portugal

"I felt I'd missed a great opportunity [at EURO 2004], not just for me but for all my team-mates who've lived this competition so intensely and the people who've given us so much support."

"I'll take a lot of great memories [from EURO 2004]. I'll remember what we've lived in these games and the many shows of support we received from the public. We tried to give them something to celebrate but unfortunately we couldn't."

What they said

"When I was growing up in Portugal, Figo wore the seven of Sporting Lisbon. Like any kid with dreams of being a footballer, I wanted to be Figo. I wanted to wear the number seven.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal captain

Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo at EURO 2004
Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo at EURO 2004 AFP via Getty Images

"You could put Figo in a phone booth along with 11 opponents and he would find his way to the door. He would dribble past them all and find a way out."
Carlos Queiroz, Figo's former Portugal (at all age levels) and Madrid coach

"In a [Real Madrid] squad swelled with talent and egos, it would be easy for players to get lost among the crowd, but there was never any danger of that when it came to Figo."
Geoff Hurst, former England player and World Cup winner

"It's impossible to stop Figo unless the whole defence helps out."
Javier Garrido, former Valencia defender

Final tally

International: 127 appearances, 32 goals
UEFA club competition: 142 appearances, 28 goals
Domestic competition: 792 appearances, 136 goals