MONTE CARLO – Portuguese soccer great Luis Figo said on Monday he was considering England’s Manchester City, Italy’s Juventus, and Spain’s Barcelona and Real Madrid as the favorite clubs to claim the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League title.
Figo was in the French city of Monte Carlo to attend the 2019 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony scheduled later in the day.
Laureus Awards honor the 2018 best sports achievements in eight individual and team categories.
“Favorites? Manchester City, Juventus also, and Barcelona, as well as Real Madrid, which will always be there,” Figo said.
The former Portuguese star, who played for Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, also discussed the tournament’s last-16 tie pitting Atletico Madrid against Juventus.
“Juventus and Atletico Madrid are two teams with similar playing styles,” the former international said. “Atletico has extra motivation as the final will be held at their stadium (Wanda Metropolitano) and anything can happen. Both teams are well organized and have great players.”
Figo then praised his fellow countryman, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who played for Sporting Lisbon and Real Madrid before joining Juventus over the summer.
“Cristiano is still continuing in the same line of making history,” Figo said. “He is the best in the world along with Messi and he continues putting in great performances, showing how great he is.”
With regards to his former club, Real Madrid, Figo said the team is experiencing a tough season; however, it is always favorite for winning titles.
“It is a difficult year because it comes after a World Cup and the players joined the preseason (preparations) at different times,” he said.
“Physically (the team) has improved and this is being shown in how they play.”
Figo also added: “Sunday’s defeat (2-1 to Girona in La Liga) was a step back, but it is still alive in the three competitions,” of La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League, stressing that Madrid never gives anything away and always battles to claim victories and titles.
The former Madrid forward stressed he was not surprised by the evolution of Brazil forward Vinicius Jr., 18, confirming that the young winger has “great talent.”
“Age does not count in soccer,” Figo said. “What counts is the work you do. I am not surprised. There were injuries and sidelines, and he (Vinicius) has made the most of his opportunity, showing the quality he has.”
Figo also said the Barcelona team still has that remarkable playing style, downplaying the lack of presence of its youth academy players in the first team, explaining it is because of the talents that appear in different generations.
Briton singer and songwriter Jorja Smith will perform during the Laureus Awards ceremony that is to be hosted by United States actor James Marsden.
Several famed sportsmen are to attend the event alongside Figo, including: Arsene Wenger, Fabio Capello, Didier Deschamps, Cafu, Alessandro Del Piero, Carles Puyol, Mikael Silvestre, Patrick Vieira, Fredi Bobic, Kosovare Asllani and Alex Scott.