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Luis Figo vs Sol Campbell: The Battle for the Most Infamous Transfer 

Two of the biggest and most heated transfers in football history, Figo's move to Madrid and Campbell's to Arsenal are nothing short of electric. The fans can still feel the echoes today.

Last updated: 23.07.2019
Luis Figo vs Sol Campbell: The Battle for the Most Infamous Transfer | Sports Social Blog

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Transfers are usually a thing of joy and excitement. You’re always excited to see how a player will do in new turf, even if he under-performed in his previous clubs. Even if the concerned player disappointed the fans, people still get to have that memory of being excited for a new signing and the infinite potential that comes along with it. Of course, it’s a joyous occasion when the transfer actually pans out like in the case of the recent(as in the past few seasons) Liverpool transfers of Van Dijk and Fabinho. Even if a great player leaves your club you are excited at the prospect of someone young( or sometimes old) stepping up and making his mark. But like everything that’s potentially great on all angles, there’s a bitter blind-spot and transfers are no exceptions to that rule.


When a marquee player joins the opposition it becomes the epicentre of bitterness. Two of the biggest examples were the transfers of Luis Figo from Barcelona to Real Madrid and Sol Campbell from Tottenham to Arsenal. These were some of the most infamous occurrences in all of the sports. On one side people were fuming and on the other side, they were joyous(because they were great and effective players). These transfers have classic written all over them, with ludicrous amounts of drama and animosity, as well as joy. It’s really hard to rank one over the other. That being said, everyone knows that when it’s a battle, only one can prevail (no one’s getting off easy with a draw). Let’s see who comes out of this victorious ( not that it would necessarily be a good thing).



Round 1: Damage to Former Club


Sol Campbell, along with Ledley King, was crucial to Tottenham’s defence. He was one of the best centre backs in the PL and the hit that Tottenham took was noticeable. From winning the Football League Cup in the 1998-1999 season, Tottenham were trophyless till 2007-08 where they won the League Cup again. In the post-Campbell years, Tottenham fell as low as 14th on the PL table (03-04) while Arsenal were flying high. Thankfully Ledley King kept Tottenham afloat in defence and aside from that time they fell to 14, their league position mostly remained the same.


It’s no secret that Luis Figo is one of the best midfielders to ever grace the game. His passing and intelligence regarding how to find those spaces and manipulate them along with his dribbling made him stand head and shoulders atop most great players. With Barca, he won the La Liga twice but once he left, they only won the trophy once(during his tenure at Real). Barcelona also didn’t claim a single UCL trophy during that period. Suffice it to say, Barca took a bad hit.


Winner: Luis Figo (damage to Barca was far more noticeable)


Round 2: Individual Awards at each club 


A large chunk of Luis Figo’s individual awards were with Barcelona. Not that he had a low award count with Real Madrid. But his awards with Barca were significant including the La Liga Foreign player award. He won the Ballon D’or with 2000 right when he shifted to Real Madrid and his time at Barca was the bigger contributor to winning that award.


Sol Campbell won most of his personal awards at Arsenal. He was inducted into the PFA Team of the year twice at Arsenal (once at Tottenham which was his only award there). He was also inducted into the UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament for during his Arsenal days.


Winner: Sol Campbell (While he doesn’t have the treasure chest that Luis Figo had, most of his treasure came during his time at Arsenal).


Round 3: The Ugly Reception from Former Teams


Both players had it rough. Luis Figo was labelled a traitor by Barcelona fans. They were not afraid to let him know that whenever he went to Camp Nou. Same with Sol Campbell. Fans are bitter to this day regarding both footballers. They have received a lot of hostility from fans, a lot of which was overboard( and unfortunately, anticipated given how things escalated following those transfers). There’s no winner here other than the people who sold those ‘Traitor’ T - shirts, at least in a financial sense.


Result: Draw


Round 4: Team Awards 


After months of negotiations, Sol Campbell left Tottenham saying he wanted to play Champions League football. It would’ve been a sad tale if he went to Arsenal only to have a dry spell. But that didn’t happen. Something the angriest of Tottenham fans can’t deny are facts. And the fact is that he won trophies at Arsenal. He won two Premier Leagues and FA Cups. And his wish to play UCL football came true as Arsenal even went to the finals only to be beaten by Barcelona (considering our other candidate, that is kind of comical). He was a large contributor to all of those awards thanks to his tackling, defensive read and physical attributes like strength.


Luis Figo might not have won as many individual awards at Real Madrid as he did with Barcelona but he did make a mountain out of team awards. He won seven team awards at Real Madrid, two of which were La Liga’s and one of which was the Champions League, the biggest trophy in club football. He put all his skills like shooting, passing and dribbling (all of which were top notch) to good use and raked in the big trophies.


Winner: Luis Figo


Round 5: Which is more iconic??


When Sol Campbell left, Tottenham fans were enraged. What made the matter blow up was the months of negotiations for a new contract. The new Tottenham contract would have made him their highest paid player ever. They really gave everything to try to make it work. But alas he still left. Adding further fuel to fire, perhaps, was the fact that his move to Arsenal was free. Imagine losing one of your best players for no money. That is probably the closest football has gotten to actual highway robbery. On top of that, at Arsenal he won major awards as mentioned earlier. A landmark transfer in every sense of the word.


What’s more iconic than a free transfer of a crucial player to a rival club? A transfer that breaks the buyout clause and sends a crucial player to the rival club. Luis Figo’s transfer broke the buy-out clause and he was sold to Real Madrid for €62 million setting the record at the time. Barcelona simply couldn’t do anything. It was not only the most infamous signing in football history but is frequently cited as the most infamous signing/transfer in all of sports. Real Madrid rolled the red carpet and everyone just watched.  What made matters even worse(better for Figo and Real; worse for Barca) was that Figo won the Ballon D’or while he was playing for the Team Clad in White and his time at Barcelona was the biggest factor in him receiving that trophy. Couple that with the fact that he won the UCL, became the top UCL assist provider for a season and won the La Liga twice and it just salts Barcelona’s Figo-shaped wound. There is also the fact that El Clasico is widely considered the greatest rivalry in the entirety of sports. While the North-London derby is a classic rivalry, the Real Madrid and Barcelona rivalry is simply timeless. Premier League extremists scream about how the PL is superior to every other league for most days of the year. The only time they remain silent is during El Clasico. 


Winner of Round 5: Luis Figo


Winner of the Battle: Luis Figo


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