On the surface, little seems to have changed in the life of Portugal icon Luis Figo since the legendary wing wizard hung up his boots in May of last year. Still clearly in excellent physical condition and as professional as ever, the 2001 FIFA World Player remains involved in the beautiful game in his role as International Relations Manager for FC Internazionale Milano.
Ahead of the reigning European champions’ bid for global glory at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010, the 38-year-old spoke exclusively to FIFA.com on a host of issues including the FIFA Ballon d’Or, Portugal’s new coach Paulo Bento and his country’s joint-bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup™.
FIFA.com: Luis, can you tell us how your working life has changed since you hung up your boots?
Luis Figo: At the moment I’m working for Inter Milan as their International Relations Manager. I attend events related to the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup, such as the draw recently held in Zurich, as well as other competitions. But I’m also involved in the 'Inter Campus' social project, which helps children across the globe via a football development programme.
On the subject of the FIFA Club World Cup, it’s a competition that FC Internazionale Milano are set to tackle for the first time. What are the club’s objectives for UAE 2010?
Inter have the opportunity to take part in this prestigious competition for the first time ever, which means that winning it has become an overriding objective for the club. After winning the Champions League, the Club World Cup is our priority and would cap a fantastic year. We’re going to try and claim a trophy that would add a huge amount of lustre to our trophy cabinet. It’s a very important challenge for us.
Following victory in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho has departed to be replaced by Rafael Benitez. How difficult is it for any coach to try and fill Mourinho’s shoes?
It’s a new season, a transitional campaign under a new coach. But we’re very pleased to have signed a very experienced coach, who has an impressive CV and is held in great store internationally. We have our minds set on achieving more success, just like last season.
After winning the Champions League, the Club World Cup is our priority and would cap a fantastic year.
Speaking of coaches, what’s your verdict on the appointment of a former team-mate of yours, Paulo Bento, as Portugal boss?
I know him very well, we were in the national squad together for years. He’s a great professional and a real winner. Let’s hope things go well for him during this new era with the national team. I’m sure he can give Portugal plenty to celebrate.
And what about you? When will we see Luis Figo in the dugout?
Not for the time being. To be honest I’m really enjoying the work I’m doing at the moment. I don’t plan on becoming a coach in the near future, I’ve got other projects in mind.
Such as charity work?
Of course. As someone who’s in the public eye, helping other people is the least I can do. It’s something that gives me real pleasure. I’ve got my own charitable foundation that tries to provide fresh opportunities and better living conditions for young people. That, along with the work I do for 'Inter Campus', is very important to me.
In your role as an ambassador for Portugal and Spain’s bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup, how much would welcoming the global showpiece mean to the two countries?
To have the opportunity to host a World Cup is an honour and privilege for any nation. In my personal opinion, I think that Portugal and Spain have everything you need to be model hosts, particularly given the passion for football in both countries. We’ve got good infrastructures in place, so let’s hope we can win everybody over. I’m certain of one thing: it’ll be an incredible ‘fiesta’, especially for Portugal for the simple reason that it would be the first time they've hosted the World Cup.
One final question: now that we know the nominees for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2010, which player do you think will take home the award?
The favourites are Wesley Sneijder and the group of players from the Spanish national team which won the World Cup in South Africa. That tournament usually has a big impact on decisions like this, so Xavi, Andres Iniesta or David Villa could all win it.