Zinedine Zidane is considered one of the best players ever to grace the game. The French legend was an exceptionally talented and skilful player. He has won countless honours and titles throughout his career. He is a club legend at 2 of the most prestigious football clubs in the world, Real Madrid and Juventus. However, the first thing that comes to our mind when we hear Zidane’s name is the iconic head-butt to Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
He is popularly known as “Zizou”. He has earned plaudits and recognition from countless greats of the game in acknowledgement of his talent. He has been an inspiration for numerous players like Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe. He is also admired by fellow legends of the game like Sir Alex Ferguson, Ronaldinho, David Beckham, Carlos Alberto Parreira and Pelé. Let’s have a look at why he is held in such high regard in the football world.
Zidane made his professional debut with Cannes against Nantes in 1989. He got transferred to Bordeaux in 1992. After impressive performances with Bordeaux and France, he signed for Juventus in 1996. His impact in Italy was immediate as he won the Serie A Foreign Footballer of the year in his first season. In 2001, Zidane joined Real Madrid for a world-record fee of €76 million to join the Galácticos era of global stars. He retired from club football after the 2005-06 season at Real Madrid.
Zizou made his international debut against the Czech Republic in a friendly on 17 August 1994. He came on as a substitute and helped the team to overcome a 2-0 deficit by scoring a brace.
He has played 3 Euros and 3 World Cups with the French national team. He was the man of the match in the final of the 1998 World Cup, helping France to win its 1st ever World Cup. He was named Player of the Tournament in France’s Euro 2000 winning campaign.
The legendary midfielder announced his retirement from international football after France’s shocking defeat against Greece in the Quarterfinals at Euro 2004. He came out of retirement to lead his team in the 2006 World Cup. However, the French captain had already announced his retirement after the expiration of his contract with Real Madrid after the 2005-06 season.
So, all the fans knew that the 2006 World Cup final would be the last match of his career. The final gave us one of the most iconic moments in the history of football. Zidane headbutted Italy’s Materazzi in the chest and got sent off in the 110th minute. Italy went on to win the World Cup on penalties against the ten men France. Even after all this drama, Zidane won the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament.
He was the 4th French player to earn 100 caps and joined the company of fellow French legends Desailly, Thuram and Didier Deschamps.
- Zidane has won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with the French national team. He also finished runner-up in the 2006 World Cup.
- Zidane won a silver medal in the 1995-96 UEFA Cup and won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1995 with Bordeaux.
- Zidane was an integral part of the team that won two Serie A titles, one Italian Super Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and one Intercontinental Cup. He also finished as runner-up in two UEFA Champions League in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
- Zidane was part of the Galácticos dream team that won a La Liga, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup.
- Zidane has won countless Individual awards throughout his playing career. Some of the most prestigious honours won by him are Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Player of the Year (2 times), FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, EURO Player of the Tournament and Onze d’Or (3 times). He has also been included in the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team, UEFA Team of the Year, Real Madrid Hall of Fame, Juventus Greatest XI of All Time and Ballon d’Or Dream Team.
During his remarkably decorated career, he has broken and set many records. He still holds many records which were established by him more than 15 years ago.
- He held the record for the most expensive footballer in history between 2001-2009.
- He is the oldest player to win the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball at 34 years and 17 days.
- He has won the most Onze d’Or – 7 times (level with Cristiano Ronaldo) and most FIFA World Player of the Year awards- 6 in total.
- He scored the most goal in FIFA World Cup Final matches: 3 goals (level with 3 players) and most FIFA World Cup Final matches scored in 2 matches (shared with Song).
- He is the only player in history to win the World Cup and the European Championship while being named the best player of both tournaments.
Zidane was an attacking midfielder labelled as “Maestro” by various voices in the football world. He was constantly the most effective player in the team with his skills and abilities.
He is considered the king of the fundamentals of the game- controlling and passing. His ball retention skills were elite, and he would find himself space on the pitch that isn’t there. He had a superb vision and wonderful touch that made him special.
He did all the movement and skills with such elegance and grace. Along with exceptional first touch, he also had world-class ball protection, short dribbling, vision and passing skill, which made him one of the best playmakers of all time.
He was comfortable with both the feet along with that he was also a set-piece specialist. His technique and coordination helped him to score volleys and shots with perfect timing and power.
His unique strength was to make his teammates stronger by taking instant decisions on the pitch. He had a solid understanding of the game and developed the tactical sense that also helped him to become a highly successful manager.
Zidane is a hybrid of natural talent, training and perseverance. In him, hard work and discipline met elegance and grace to produce one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen.
(FIFA 21. Credit: Jordan Oloman / EA Sports)
There were many great players before, there are many great players now, and there will be many great players in the future.
But will we see anyone like Zidane or will he be the greatest of all time?