Raised In Lisbon
Figo was born in the blue-collar Almada section of Lisbon, Portugal, and after competing for the youth team Uniao Futebol Clube Os Pastilhas, joined the club Sporting Lisbon at age 11. He made his debut for Lisbon's parent soccer club at age 16 and played for world champion national teams in the under-16 and under-20 age categories He made the national squad in 1991, thus earning his first international cap.
He became Lisbon's captain for the 1994-95 season, then signed provisional contracts with Italian Serie A teams Juventis and Parma. But FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association), the world soccer governing body, banned Figo from playing in Italy for two years, so the rising star signed with Barcelona of the Spanish league. Barcelona coach Johan Cruyff, himself a former World Cup star for the Dutch, converted Figo from a midfielder to a right wing. Figo and Barcelona prospered together. Between 1997 and 1999, Barcelona won the Cup Winners' Cup and the European Super Cup, consecutive Spanish league titles and
the Spanish Cup. Figo scored 30 goals in 172 games for Barcelona.
Though Portugal missed the 1998 World Cup, Figo's stock rose. He earned the Ballon D'Or (Golden Ball) Award from France Football in 2000 and a year later received the FIFA World Player award. His spectacular goal during Portugal's 3-2 comeback victory over England in the Euro 2000 tournament drew special notice. "Figo's run and long-range rocket into the top corner of the net was both spectacular and match-turning. Portugal appeared out of the match at 2-0 down when he struck," CNN-Sports Illustrated wrote on its Web site.
"A wide-ranging player who is happiest on the flanks, Figo has pace, stamina, strength, excellent close control and a deadly shot," wrote Mike Penner and Grahame Jones of the Los Angeles Times. "Add to that exceptional dribbling skills and a crossing ability that puts him on a par with England's David Beckham, and you have the complete player, one equally at home as a forward, playmaker or winger."