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Football: Figo was set to be Maine man; Madrid star nearly joined City for pounds 1m.

LUIS FIGO - the most expensive footballer in history at pounds 40million - almost signed for Manchester City for just pounds 1m.

City got as far as negotiating with the brilliant Portuguese midfielder and offering him a contract before he was lured away from England by Barcelona.

The man behind what would have been the most astonishing deal English football has ever witnessed was Malcolm Allison.

In early 1994, a year before Figo joined Barcelona, former City coach Allison had just finished a stint coaching in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon.

When he returned to England, he was employed as a part-time scout at Maine Road and immediately recommended a young kid at his former club who had just broken into the first team.

Allison remembers clearly that even then at the tender age of 20 Figo looked a world beater and he was desperate to get him over to England with City.

Allison said: "They asked me for some names and I told them about Figo.

"At the time, not many people had heard of him and Sporting were looking for some cash, so we thought we might get him.

"Brian Horton was the manager and he was very keen.

"The fee would have been only around pounds 1.2m in total and Figo was also very interested.

"We got as far as discussing terms but there was a problem with the Portuguese regulations which didn't allow him to sign at that time of the year for a foreign club.

"The only way City could get him was through a loan deal until the end of the season and then buy him.

"But Barcelona also got wind of it and they offered to buy him and then loan him back to Sporting for the rest of the season which was a more attractive deal to them.

"It's true that Figo could have been a City player for just a pounds 1m - and that looks a bit of a bargain these days."

That is something of an understatement for a player regarded as the best in the world and priced accordingly with his record move to Madrid from Barca.

Figo has been headline news in Spain, his transfer causing a huge amount of bitterness and resentment between the two clubs who are traditional enemies.

He has also caused some interest back home in England with one person - Steve McManaman, who will be Figo's team-mate at Madrid next season.

He said: "People have criticised our defence but now we'll be able to go out and win games 6-5 if we have to because we will have some attacking team.

"They always say that you should strengthen your side when you are winning and after winning the European Cup it's not a bad way to strengthen by adding Luis Figo.

"I can't wait to get back to Madrid and join up with the squad in training to have a look at him.

"It shows just how powerful a club Madrid really are that they can go out and buy players like that. Figo's a great player and I'm sure it can only help me playing alongside him."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Marshall, Alan
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 26, 2000
Words:522
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