Full name: Zinedine Yazid Zidane
Date of birth: 23/06/1972
According to the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll in 2004 Zinedine ‘Zizou’ Zidane is the greatest European footballer of the past 50 years. His accolades are countless, his talents are immeasurable, his legendary status is undeniable, his wealth is record-breaking and his name actually means ‘an overabundance of talent’. Zidane will go down as one of the greatest talents ever to play the game but his memory will stretch beyond that of the pitch. His fiery temperament was perhaps the hottest the game has ever seen. Shown the red card 14 times in his career and most memorably in the World Cup Final in 2006, Zidane played with so much passion that it often engulfed him. There is no doubt that he is one of the greatest players ever. The goals that he scored and the countless with which he assisted have never been more valuable to the teams that he played for.
The Early Days of Club Football
Born in Marseille in 1972, Zinedine was the youngest of five children born to his parents Ismail and Malika, who were Algerians who found refuge in France. He has always held his ancestry in the highest esteem and been proud to call himself as much Algerian as French. His upbringing was hard and, as immigrants, his family often had to be strong to survive. This tough attitude eventually permeated onto the football pitch. Some called it passion, some thought he lost his cool. The formula worked though and none of the teams he played for throughout his career would have swapped it.
Zidane’s first club was La Castellane in Marseille. At only 14 he caught the eye of nearby team scout from AS Cannes, Jean Varraud. He quickly settled in at Cannes and at 17 he was granted his full debut. His first goal came for Cannes in 1991 and he helped the club to the UEFA cup tournament. It wasn’t long though before the bigger clubs spotted a rapidly emerging talent.
Before he signed for FC Girondins de Bordeaux, Zidane fell in love with Veronique, a Spanish dancer. They would go on to marry and have four sons together. He spent four brilliant years at Bordeaux, at one point nearly being signed by Kenny Dalgleish and Blackburn Rovers, but it was to be the Italian giants Juventus who would poach the ever-improving attacking midfielder in 1996, for what would be a bargain £3 million.
The Italian Job
Juventus and the entire Italian Serie A league had no idea what was coming with Zidane. The Juventus coach Marcello Lippi built an indestructible team, with Zidane at the helm, and the Frenchman would help the club win two league titles and reach two UEFA Champions League finals. In 1998 he was granted the Fifa World Player of the Year Award.
It was only a matter of time before the club that gets everyone they want, Real Madrid, nabbed Zidane too. It wouldn’t happen without a record being broken though. In 2001 Zidane left Juventus and joined Real Madrid for a whopping £45.6 million, which remains the highest football transfer fee ever. They certainly got their money’s worth though. The team were full of the world’s best players (Raul, Figo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Beckham, Owen). Whilst at Madrid, Zidane helped them win the Spanish League in 2001/02 and the Champions League in the same year. His winning goal in that final will go down as one of the greatest goals ever scored. Here it is again.
Meanwhile, whilst playing for France…
Unlike some of his national team-mates such as Eric Cantona and Thierry Henry, Zidane certainly maintained his form when playing for his country. His first cap came in 1994 in a friendly against the Czech Republic and, from the outset, he exploded onto the scene by scoring two goals to draw the game 2-2. In Euro 96, France reached the semi-finals but lost on penalties. Their strength with Zidane was growing and that strength would soon annihilate everyone in their path in the 1998 World Cup.
On their own soil, Zidane and his team-mates ploughed through the opposition. The fire in Zizou’s belly ignited once again and a red card in a qualifier meant he could only return for the knock out stages. However, he scored in the quarter-final shoot-out and he would eventually win France the World Cup by scoring twice in the final against Brazil, winning his nation the Cup for the first time.
In the European Championships in 2000, France became the first team since 1974 to win World and Euro consecutively. Zidane scored in the quarter and semi finals, then beating Italy in the final.
Italy would be a country forever etched on Zidane’s heart. With Juventus. he received international notoriety, but with the national side he would eventually receive the ultimate stab in the back. Having already retired from international football in 2004, Zidane rose from the ashes to help his struggling nation qualify for the World Cup held in Germany in 2006. He went on to captain the side throughout the tournament and they gradually snuck up behind all the other teams to reach the final…against Italy.
Another world cup final for Zidane but no one alive could have predicted what would happen to the legend. in what was probably going to be his last ever competitive game of football. The script began as a dream; Zidane scored a penalty in the first half. But then Italy hit back, levelling the game, at which point disaster struck for Zizou.
Marco Materatzzi has since admitted that he said to Zidane that instead of having his shirt at the end of the game, he’d “prefer your whore of a sister”. Whatever was actually said by the Italian, it was enough for Zidane to turn around and launch a diving head-butt into Materazzi’s chest, immediately giving him a red card and leaving him walking past the World Cup trophy, that his nation would then go on to lose on penalties in extra time. It was his last ever game.
His last game hasn’t marred the mark he left on the game though. Everyone knew what he was like before that famous head-butt: a man of passion who was never likely to leave the stage without a final act of drama. There have been rumours of a come-back career in both USA and Australia, but it seems only charity games will see the great Zidane now. He is loved in France and loved by football: a truly worthy legend and, as his name denotes, a man with an overabundance of talent.
- UEFA Club Football Awards, Best Midfielder: 1997/1998
- UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2002
- World Soccer Player of the Year: 1998
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 1998, 2000, 2003
- FIFA Silver World Player of the Year: 2006
- FIFA Bronze World Player of the Year: 1997, 2002
- European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d’Or): 1998
- UEFA Champions League Most Valuable Player: 2001/2002
- UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll (Best European player of the past 50 years): 2004
- FIFA World Cup Golden Ball Award: 2006
- FIFPro World XI Team: 2005, 2006
- Onze d’Or: 1998, 2000, 2001
- UEFA European Championship Player of the Tournament: 2000
- FIFA All-Star Team: 1998, 2006
- UEFA BEST XI: 2001, 2002, 2003
- Chevalier de Légion d’Honneur: since 1998
|1992–1996||Girondins Bordeaux||135 (28)|
|2001–2006||Real Madrid||155 (37)|