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By ESPN Staff

Figo signs contract for Saudi-based Al Ittihad

DUBAI, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Former World Player of the Year Luis Figo has signed an 18-month contract with Al Ittihad for an undisclosed sum, the Saudi club said on Sunday.

'I can confirm that Luis Figo of Inter Milan has signed an official contract with Ittihad starting on July 1, 2007,' Ittihad director-general Rafat Turki told Reuters.

'I have no right to release the value but we concluded a deal acceptable to both sides that is the highest, not just in the Middle East, but in Asia for a player that is worth the value.'

Italian and Saudi newspapers had been reporting for weeks that the 34-year-old Portuguese midfielder, whose contract with Inter Milan expires at the end of the season, was on the brink of moving to the Jeddah-based club.

Inter Milan dismissed the report several days ago saying in a statement on its Web site that there was no negotiation under way.

Inter coach Roberto Mancini, who was in Bahrain with his team for a training camp and a friendly against Bahrain's national team, told the Gulf Daily News that Figo would stay at least until his contract expired at the end of the year.

But Turki said Ittihad had clinched the deal in Bahrain on Thursday night.

The club had earlier delayed announcing the deal until the contract was signed, raising media speculation that the talks had fallen through.

Ittihad issued a statement on the same day saying the talks were delayed because Figo had demanded he be paid 70 percent of the agreed sum in his first six months at Ittihad, during which time he would be allowed to end the contract for any reason.

'The negotiations took almost 2-1/2 months. To get a player of such skill and prestige takes time,' Turki said.

'A couple of hours after the press conference we were able to conclude the deal.'

Figo began his career at Sporting Lisbon and played for Portugal in the 2006 World Cup. He played for Barcelona and Real Madrid before joining Inter at the start of the 2005-6 season.