Mumbai: Only a few players have dared to represent fierce rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona in their careers. Luis Figo was one of the controversial superstars to pull off the El Clasico double but whenever he stepped on the field, his winning mentality remained untouched. “I wanted to win every game. Whether Real Madrid or Barcelona, one project at a time,” he recalled on Friday.
In a span of just 10 days, Madrid have suffered title ending defeats in LaLiga and Copa del Rey to Barcelona and were eviscerated by a youthful Ajax in last-16 — a downfall no one would have anticipated. Out of the LaLiga title race, Copa del Rey and the Champions League, Los Blancos are only left with the task of fighting for a place in the elite European competition in the remaining two and a half months. But Figo, who was a part of the famed Galacticos, insists that Madrid will overcome this dark phase.
“It’s not the (right) moment to criticise because it was really a tough week for Real Madrid. They lost everything in that one week,” said the Portuguese great who was in Mumbai for the UEFA Global Fan event.
“They (Real) did not have much time to settle because they had a little window to find the new coach after (Zinedine) Zidane left. And this season, unlike earlier, did not start so well. Then they changed the coach. Many of the players had the World Cup, so different players joined the pre-season at different times. It is not always a good thing, they didn’t rest enough and so the results were not good,” added the UEFA Champions League Ambassador.
Real Madrid are 12 points adrift leaders Barcelona in LaLiga and while the fans attribute the drastic drop in form to the departure of club legend Cristiano Ronaldo and coach Zinedine Zidane, Figo feels both Madrid and Ronaldo will move on with time. “It’s his decision and I don’t know what happened between him (Ronaldo) and the club (Real Madrid) that made him seek change. He is the best football player in the world, so when he moves, there will be a big impact. Real Madrid will survive without Ronaldo, and Ronaldo is making history without Real,” said Figo, who played for Madrid between 2000 and 2005.
Meanwhile, manager Santiago Solari was given an earful by Madrid fans after a 1-4 defeat to Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu. In fact, many were filmed chanting Jose Mourinho’s name outside the stadium. Throughout the season, the Argentine was under the microscope for making bold decisions that were rarely favoured by the board. The odds on Solari becoming club’s next scapegoat remains high, but Figo wasn’t too critical about the managerial situation. "He is my friend and when you have friends in such positions, you always wish good for them. What is going to happen in the future, I don’t know. Because the world of coaches is very tough, it all depends on the results,” he said before adding that at the moment, it’s time for Mourinho to “reflect, think and improve his ideas and probably, he will coach next year.”
VAR a part of life
Since its introduction to the game, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has witnessed mixed opinions from players, coaches and fans alike. More so, after last week’s game between runaway Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United in the last-16. Despite UEFA’s justification of the Presnel Kimpembe hand ball debate, the technology’s adaptation is still far away.
“VAR is part of our life. I think VAR must improve (like) everything in life. Because now in our life everyone is depending on technology and we have to adapt VAR to football in the best way possible. The biggest thing is to help the referees be fairer in terms of justice (decision making), but of course, if there are any new problems, we have to improve like anything in life.
"This is the first season that the referees are trying VAR (in Champions League) and for sure it is a positive sign. But you have to define the concept of VAR and how do you use it to make the right decision,” the former Portuguese international added.
Yet another dramatic slump from PSG at the last-16 stage drew a lot of criticism. Despite the 500 million euros spent by the Qatar Sports Investments, it’s the same old story — domestic domination. “Investing money won’t assure that you are going to win competitions. They make you strong and competitive against some of the strongest teams. It works well at the domestic level but the historic values of the club help you win major tournaments. There are teams that have the financial power to buy, but we have to respect the Financial Fair Play (FFP)," said Figo, who backed either Barcelona or Pep Guardiola's City to become champions of Europe this season.
"It is always ideal that financially strong clubs develop players and invest in the grassroots like Ajax, Sporting Lisbon and other teams. Because what you get from sponsors and stadiums (ticket revenue) is not always enough to buy big stars, so you have to invest in the grassroots,” he concluded.
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Updated Date: Mar 09, 2019 15:17:12 IST