Zinedine Zidane was one of the greatest football players to have ever walked the surface of the earth. For many years he was the heartbeat of the French national team, the brain of Juventus and the conductor-general of a Real Madrid team that conquered Europe.
At the end of an eventful and glamorous career, Zinedine Zidane had won league titles in France, Italy and Spain. A World Cup winner with France on home soil in 1998, `Zizou’ also emerged the winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year three times. A record he shares only with Ronaldo and Messi.
Fans will never forget Zinedine Zidane, and these are the things we will forever remember about the master…
1. His Magic
Zinedine Zidane was a different breed, the like of which world football may never see again. He didn’t just kick the ball around as most do, his feet spoke with the ball.
He moved and danced and danced the more. Elegant with and without the ball, Zinedine was the master in the art of control and passing. He played as if he had silk gloves on each foot. He perfected the `Marseille turn’ and stepovers that they became his signature moves.
Zizou was blessed with an incredible skill to create space where there is none and make ordinary players around him become superb. What Zidane could do with the ball was a dream for most other players. Extraordinary was his technique on the ball that it took him to the very top of the world game.
2. His Genius
Even the great Pele called him `the master’. There’s no greater compliment.
Many who have seen the best of the bests play- from Diego Maradona to Johan Cruyff- attest to the fact that there’s never been a player quite like Zinedine Zidane.
Make no mistake, Maradona was a great. Cruyff was a great. Yet none of them manipulated, caressed a football magically like Zizou.
Monstrous. Magnificent. Magical. Elegant. Yet these words would still not describe Zinedine Zidane aptly. For he was a genius.
3. His Heroics
It’s the 1998 World Cup. France was the host and public expectations were sky high. Zinedine Zidane received a red card in the second round match against Saudi Arabia- the first for any Frenchman at a World Cup finals.
He became public enemy number one for risking the country’s chance of a first World Cup triumph.
France faced tournament favourites, Brazil in what was a destiny-decider for Zinedine Zidane, who had not scored a single goal all tournament.
Zidane was ready, though. He scored two similar headed goals from cornerkicks to help france to a 3-0 win over the defending champions.
He became an instant national hero.
4. His Record Transfer
The best players should always play at the best clubs. Zidane won titles in the colours of Juventus, one of the biggest clubs in Italy.
But he had become a goldfish more glamorous than the little pond of the Serie A. He had to play at the biggest stage of them all for the biggest club in the world: Real Madrid.
Real Madrid pulled out all the stops to land their man. After a long, drawn transfer saga, Zinedine Zidane became a Real Madrid player.
Real had paid about €75 million to secure his services. It was the World’s largest transfer fee at the time. A new era of the Galacticos was born.
5. His Golazo
Zinedine Zidane had finally guided a team of expensively assembled superstars to the final of the Champions League. They were to face another stubborn German foe in Bayer Leverkusen.
Bayer had been the surprise team of that year’s competition having accounted for the knock-out of more traditional teams like Manchester United.
Again, Leverkusen proved difficult to break down, showing the resoluteness that had taken them to the final. With the game tied at one all, it was clear that the Germans were giving as much as they were taking.
Until Zidane stepped in, that is. With the ball descending furiously from the heavens, Zidane struck a ferocious volley with his weaker left foot that left the goalkeeper with no chance at all. It’s been cited as one of the best goals of the UEFA Champions League.
Real Madrid were champions again, no small thanks to their talisman.
6. His Headbutts
Mortal Zidane had his own demons, though.
Materrazi-gate was actually not the first in Zizou’s illustrious career. In the group stage of a Champions League match, Zinedine Zidane head-butted Hamburg SV’s Jochen Kientz. It was one of those flash points that revealed the Frenchman’s fiery temper. He would never be able to completely conquer it, though.
The 2006 World Cup was destined to be his tournament. He had been wooed out of retirement by France yet he played like he’d never been gone. He had been the best player throughout the tournament, scoring goals, giving assists, and dragging an average French team to the final of the FIFA World Cup.
Facing an Italian team with no special star, Zidane shone like a million star. He scored a goal and nearly got another. It seemed like a matter of minutes before he concur another magic to open Italy and hand the victory to France.
A head-butt and a red card after, Zidane’s career was finally over and Italy were crowned champions of the world again.
A sour end to the calling of one of the game’s true legend.