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The Rediff Special/Player of the day
Figo older and wiser
June 12, 2006
Veteran winger Luis Figo was named Man of the Match by FIFA's Technical Study Group for his performance in Portugal's 1-0 win over Angola in their opening Group D match in Cologne on Sunday.
Figo, 33, making his 121st appearance for his country, provided a gem of a pass for Pauleta to score Portugal's only goal in the fourth minute of the game.
The FIFA's World Player of the Year in 2001 collected the ball in acres of midfield space, easily skipped past Kali and pulled the ball back for Pauleta to tuck in his 47th goal in his 83rd international.
The veteran midfielder does not quite display the speed or strength of old, but he still is an excellent provider of the ball from across and a danger from free kicks. His experience and charisma make him a key influence in the Portuguese side.
Figo is most capped Portuguese player with 120 appearances after reconsidering his decision last May to retire from international football following Euro 2004.
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari believes he is a better player now than when the national side reached the finals in Euro 2004.
Praising the 33-year-old's leadership skills, as well as his technical and physical prowess, Scolari said Figo has improved since reconsidering his decision to retire.
Figo, full name Luis Filipe Madeira Caeiro Figo, began his footballing career with Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon before switching over to Spanish powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid. He was the cynosure of all eyes when he moved from Barcelona to bitter rivals Real Madrid for a then world record fee of $56 million in 2000. He had a highly successful career at Madrid, helping them to the league title in his first season. He excelled in the next season helping Real win the Champions League.
After a trophy-less season for Real, he had to shift base to Italian club Inter Milan in 2005. The speed of his younger days may be missing, but his exquisite passes and his reading of the game still make him a dangerous player. The World Cup will be his one last chance at glory before retiring from international football for the final time.More Specials