The Portuguese winger had lit up the Nou Camp for five years, winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, LaLiga twice and the UEFA Super Cup, amongst others. Later in 2000, he would go on to win the Ballon d’Or.
He had signed an agreement with Real presidential candidate Florentino Perez, meaning that if Perez won the upcoming elections, Figo would become a Real player unless he paid a penalty fee of £18.75m.
Perez did win the election, and the rest is history.
When he returned to the home of Barcelona as a Real player, there was fury like no other. Figo was pelted with missiles and saw a pig’s head thrown on the pitch.
Here are three other transfers that shocked the world:
Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal, 2001)
Sol Campbell’s move from Tottenham to their North London rivals Arsenal on a free transfer was such a shock, journalists who appeared at his unveiling had no idea he was about to be announced as an Arsenal player.
The identity of that player was expected to be goalkeeper Richard Wright, who had signed from Ipswich Town earlier that week. Only two journalists turned up.
Then Campbell arrived. It was a move that sent shockwaves across football.
The centre-back would go on to achieve great success with Arsenal, winning two Premier League titles and being a major part of the ‘Invincibles’ of 2004.
Andrew Cole (Newcastle to Manchester United, 1995)
Andy Cole’s two-year spell at Newcastle saw him break several records.
He scored 41 goals in all competitions in the 1993/94 season – Newcastle’s first in the Premier League – breaking the club’s goalscoring record set 70 years earlier.
He left the club in January 1995 having scored an astonishing 68 goals in all competitions since signing – but it was his destination that proved most controversial.
Hundreds of apoplectic Magpies fans gathered at the club’s training ground upon hearing the news. Keegan himself went outside to explain the decision, and eventually things turned into what he described as a “civil discussion”.
In his autobiography My Life in Football, he explained: “The crowd was 200-300 strong and getting bigger all the time when I realised I had to do something.
“Television crews were arriving and the anger on the faces outside was unmistakable.
“Douglas [Hall] must have thought it was a lynch mob, because he rang security to ask for two cars ‘quick as possible’ to pick us up from the other side of the ground.
“I wasn’t prepared to go into hiding. ‘All they want is an explanation,’ I said. ‘They want to know why, and I’m going down there to tell them’.”
A few months later, Newcastle would sign Les Ferdinand as Cole’s replacement, who scored 25 goals in his first full season with the Magpies.
Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano (Corinthians to West Ham, 2006)
In what turned out to be one of the strangest and most controversial transfers of all-time, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez joined West Ham from Brazilian side Corinthians in the summer of 2006.
At the start of deadline day, rumours began to swirl that a deal for two of South America’s brightest prospects could actually happen. By the end of the day, it had.
With both players at the age of 22, this was their first experience of top European football. It was a double deal that provided to be very costly, in the literal sense of the word.
Mascherano played just five games for West Ham before moving to Liverpool in January 2007. Tevez, meanwhile, didn’t score a single goal in all competitions until March of that year.
But his performances throughout April and May would ultimately keep West Ham up. He scored the only goal in the Hammers’ 1-0 final day victory over Manchester United – a result that sent Sheffield United down.
Then the real drama began. There had already been serious questions raised about the transfers of Tevez and Mascherano, relating to the third-party ownership of the players.
The club had already been fined £5.5 million – a record figure – for breaching Premier League rules over the signings, instead of a points deduction.
Sheffield United claimed that Tevez was not eligible to play for West Ham at the end of the season, but played a key role in their survival.
An FA tribunal ruled against West Ham, and the London club eventually paid the Blades £20m in compensation.
Tevez would leave the club by the end of the summer to join Manchester United.
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