Former Inter winger Luis Figo has praised Italian football’s attitude to veterans. “In Spain, from the age of 31, you are already over…”
Speaking in an interview with Grada360, the now Nerazzurri ambassador has reflected on his decision to leave Real Madrid for the San Siro in 2005.
“At 32, I was ‘dead’ for many people and I was lucky to choose well and to be happy for four years at Inter by winning four Leagues,” he noted.
“It is the mentality in Spain, it is slightly negative compared to in Italy, where the fans, media and clubs judge you on your performance. In Spain, from the age of 31, you are already over.
“In Italy, the difference is in this – look at the transfers of Inter, Milan and Juventus. They have players at 30, 32 still playing because their performance is good.
“Andrea Pirlo left Inter, went to Milan and then at 30-odd years went to Juventus and remains a leader in his team.
“They do not crush you if you have a bad game by saying, ‘hey, you’re dead and it is because you are 30’. You have to look at the performance and then talk.
“That is a reality that exists in Spain, whilst in Italy they have found a way out for people to stay happy and keep playing. It was very important in my decision that I found happiness.”
Figo spent five years in the Spanish capital following his controversial move from great rivals Barcelona in 2000.
“I could not stand it because I was a player at Real that President Florentino Perez did not want,” the now 40-year-old added.
“I don’t know what had changed, but I remember well that we came to play Albacete, I had played and we had won [6-1]. Then the next week was the Clasico [lost 3-0] and then from one moment to another I was on the bench without an explanation.
“It was certainly a way to hurt me. I am telling you what I think. I am clear on why I left, I had one year to go on my contract at Madrid where I could have been paid well and stayed quiet, but I preferred to find a new project and be happy instead of taking the money without playing.
“I do not share Perez’s ideas, but I respect him. Certainly he is very powerful and very influential and I hope that he brings good things to the club.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition  - £5,000 monthly.