Football’s Sacred Cows: #1 Figo
In the first of a new series we strive to knock those who are particularly undeserving off their false pedestals. We begin with the most over-rated footballer in the history of the game – Luis Figo. If you have your own sacred cow you wish to cull give us a shout on Twitter @TheDaisyCutter1
by Daisy Cutter
On the surface at least to make a claim that World Player of the Year, Ballon D’Or recipient and Champion’s League winner Figo is the most over-rated player of his, or any other, generation might appear to be folly and something of a hard sell.
But really it isn’t. Because he IS the most over-rated player of his, or any other, generation.
There. That should cover it. Job done.
What’s that you say? You demand some kind of empirical evidence or considered appraisal, ideally within a framework of around 800 words?
Well as you wish but really I’m quite within my rights to ask why, when the exaggerated veneration of Luís Filipe Madeira Caeiro Figo occurs worldwide with an equal lack of substance to it.
Indeed the manner and ease in which he has been placed into the pantheon of all-time greats simply for being a very talented footballer is so perplexing to me that I sometimes wonder if he has incriminating photographs of you all, taken at some mad supporters, bishops and cattle party that went on one night as I slept.
During his twenty year career I must have witnessed Figo play one hundred times or more, which to some of you La Liga aficionados out there is a pittance but certainly enough to make a solid and fair assessment. In that time I saw him score the occasional spectacular goal. Is that why he’s so lauded? Because if so then there’s a velvet cushioned seat amongst the football royal family awaiting Morten Gamst Pederson when he retires. I also saw him on far too many occasions lumber up to opponents, do a couple of pointless step-overs, drop his ham shank of a shoulder before cutting in and curling a twenty yarder just wide of the post. Again, if this is sufficient for high praise then Steve Stone’s legacy remains criminally under-valued.
He was a galactico…but so was Steve McManaman. He was, as already admitted, a very decent player…but so are countless others who are given far less standing.
To be mentioned in the same breath as Zidane, fat Ronaldo, Zico, Puskas and co you really must have something about you that is more than just ability. You must possess a force, a spirit, a personality. Whereas Figo was as dull as a broken kettle. The only interesting thing about him was his treacherous move to Madrid from Barca that resulted in a pig’s head being thrown vaguely in his direction. Beyond that the man is so uniformly bland that just conjuring up his image as I write this is sending me into a yawny stupor.
Then there’s his physique. Genuine greats are usually either squat like Maradona or Messi – their low centre of gravity pinning them to an earth they contrarily transcend – or lithe and beautiful like Cruyff or Best. Figo’s lumpen features resemble the ‘slow’ one from a family of butchers who is made to stay behind the plastic sheeting away from the customers.
Hell with his burly build and doleful demeanour he looked like a mediterranean Harry H Corbett. Graceful he was not.
If you regard the above as shallow considerations then think on this – whenever the typical roll-call of footballing legends are trotted out how many times is Bobby Charlton mentioned above Georgie Best? “Well ya got yer Peles, Maradonas, Beckenbauers, Cruyffs and Bests ain’t ya”. We demand style and fantasy for our stylish and fantastical elite.
But back to the football which admittedly is the most important criteria here. Figo was a pivotal figure in helping his clubs secure a collective trophy room of silverware and in 1991 was voted the World Player of the Year. Strangely this was awarded after arguably his worst season where he experienced a prolonged dip in form but awarded it he was.
Yet the true distinction between the good and the great is what a player achieves for his country. It is the reason why even now some question Messi and thin Ronaldo’s place at the top table due to their perceived failure to inspire their nations to major honours. This is a flawed and arguably unfair yardstick but one that has become accepted in common reasoning particularly since Diego Armando galvanised and inflamed a beatable Argentina side to two consecutive World Cup finals.
It is here that Figo’s true limiting stature becomes apparent. From Portugal’s ‘golden generation’ he was the jewel in their crown and yet in 127 appearances he over-saw nothing but disappointment and early exits.
So here we are 800 words in and I haven’t even touched upon his hair. Well, you wouldn’t would you. He dunked it with so much gel it looked like a statue had been coated in Hammerite. Yet his hair is an appropriate topic on which to leave things because strangely it is emblematic of the player as a whole. Having paraded his jet black locks at the Bernabau and Nou Camp it transpires in a recent advertisement that Figo dyes. It flatters to deceive. The brand he uses is also pertinent.
He was a very good player certainly but no immortal. He was just a man.