Figo 'to make shock return for Portugal'

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The Independent Football

Luis Figo is on the verge of returning to international football to help Portugal qualify for the World Cup.

Luis Figo is on the verge of returning to international football to help Portugal qualify for the World Cup.

Figo, 32, left the squad after Euro 2004 but the president of the Portuguese football federation, Gilberto Madail, believes the 2001 World Player of the Year is poised to come out of retirement. "I believe Luis Figo will shortly join the national team, which still has many games to play in this qualification stage," he told the Portuguese newspaper Record.

"Luis Figo is indispensable to this team and to any other," Madail said of the player who boasts 110 caps. "Figo never closed the doors completely to the national squad and only those who don't want to see can deny that he has been pushing Real Madrid along."

Bayern Munich have made the most expensive purchase in their history and signed David Beckham, according to a statement on the German club's website yesterday. The fact that the piece was dated 1 April, however, tells its own story.

A Bayern spokesman confirmed it had all been a hoax. The Bundesliga leaders could rest their Brazilian defender Lucio and Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro against VfL Wolfsburg today in preparation for next week's Champions' League game against Chelsea. The goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and striker Roy Makaay missed Thursday's training due to slight strains, although both are expected to be fit.

Beckham's Real team-mate Ronaldo, has delayed his return to Spain following Brazil's World Cup qualifiers because of family problems and is likely to miss tomorrow's game against Albacete. Beckham will miss the game with a strain he picked up against Azerbaijan on Wednesday. The suspended Zinedine Zidane will also miss out.

A depleted Barcelona face a major test when they meet Real Betis tomorrow. Barcelona enjoy an 11-point lead over Real Madrid at the top with nine games left, but the Catalans will have to make do without their inspirational centre-back Carles Puyol (ankle) and defensive midfielder Rafa Marquez (suspended) against a Betis attack spearheaded by the Brazilians Ricardo Oliveira and Edu.

In Italy, the Fiorentina coach, Dino Zoff, is expected to field an unfamiliar attack of Enrico Fantini and 20-year-old Giampaolo Pazzini for the match against second-placed Juventus at the Stadio Franchi today.

Juventus, who play Liverpool in the Champions' League on Tuesday, are equal on 66 points with Milan, but with a worse goal difference than the leaders, who are at home against second-from-bottom Brescia. Juve welcome back their Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved, who has been out since the first leg of the Champions' League tie against Real Madrid in February.