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Legends: Zinedine Zidane

Vision, strength, balance and skill - Zidane had the lot

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Zinedine Zidane won three Fifa World Player of the Year awards

Zinedine Zidane won three Fifa World Player of the Year awards

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Zinedine Zidane's actions on the pitch often conflicted with his serene character. Prone to moments of rage - not least his infamous head-butt on Marco Materazzi at the 2006 World Cup - Zidane will be remembered for the sublime and the ridiculous.

A three-time Fifa World Player of the Year, 'Zizou' orchestrated Juventus' play for five seasons before becoming the most expensive player on the planet when joining Real Madrid in 2001.

Here he would become an integral part of president Florentino Perez's galacticos project, appearing in the same star-studded line-up as David Beckham, Luis Figo and Ronaldo.

A player of perfect balance, subtle skill, and wonderful vision, Zidane is regarded as one of the best to have ever set foot on a pitch.

Quick Facts:

  • Name: Zinedine Yazid Zidane
  • Nationality: French
  • Date and Place of Birth: June 23, 1972 in Marseille, France
  • Position: Playmaker
  • Clubs: Cannes (1988-1992), Bordeaux (1992-1996), Juventus (1996-2001), Real Madrid (2001-2006)
  • International Career: 1994-2006 (108 caps, 31 goals)

 

The Early Years:

 

The son of Algerian immigrants, a 14-year-old Zidane was spotted by a Cannes scout playing in a youth tournament. He was invited for a trial, which turned into a four-year stay.

 

After making his debut as a 17-year-old, he scored his first goal on February 8, 1991, and was rewarded for this feat with a car. He helped them qualify for the Uefa Cup that season.

Bordeaux signed Zidane in 1992 and his time at the club saw him win the 1995 Intertoto Cup and help them finish as runners-up in the 1995-96 Uefa Cup. He scored 10 league goals in the first of his four seasons, and six in each of the next three.

A Move to Italy:

 

Zidane joined Champions League winners Juventus in 1996 and it was this move to Turin that would truly catapult him into the world spotlight.

 

At the Stadio Delle Alpi he won the Serie A title in his first two seasons, and while demonstrating only moderate goalscoring prowess, the Frenchman was integral to the Old Lady, supplying the ammunition for such players as Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet. Edgar Davids proved the perfect compliment behind him, the combativeness to Zidane's class.

The main regret for Zidane from his time in Italy will be the two Champions League final appearances he made without winning the trophy. Juve lost out to Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and future employers Real Madrid in 1998 (the year Zidane won his first World Player award).

The Most Expensive Galactico:

 

Zidane's US$64.6 million move to Real Madrid in 2001 not only made him the costliest of Perez's first set of galacticos, but the most expensive player in the world game at that time.

 

This humble figure seemed somewhat at odds with the culture of excess and exuberance at the Bernabeu, but his performances dazzled Spanish supporters as he fitted seamlessly into his new surroundings.

Zidane's match-winning volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final in Glasgow will go down as one of the best goals ever to win a final.

Again, Zidane had a classy midfield anchor man behind him in Claude Makelele, but with Figo and Beckham accompanying him in midfield, and Ronaldo finishing off much of their good work, this was a more spectacular side to watch than Zidane's Juventus.

Despite the frivolous spending, he only won one league title with the Merengues, but picked up the third of his World Player awards after an outstanding 2003.

 

International Career:

 

Zidane took over Eric Cantona's playmaker role in 1995, and he helped France to the semi-finals of Euro 96.

 

The 1998 World Cup will go down as the pinnacle of Zidane's career as his two goals in the final against Brazil won Les Bleus the tournament on home turf.

All the talk was of France's lack of striking options prior to the World Cup, but they stormed through the group, and although there was a struggle for goals in the knock-out rounds, they reached the final and 'Zizou' was on hand to score his first goals of the tournament. A man for the big occasion indeed.

He would also help them to win Euro 2004 in the Netherlands and Belgium, but will be remembered by many for his head-butt on Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy. The big Azzurri defender has always been a provocateur and brought Zidane's ugly side to the fore in Munich.

Later on in the year, Materazzi revealed what he had said to provoke the head-butt and subsequent red card for Zidane. "I was tugging his shirt, he said to me 'if you want my shirt so much I'll give it to you afterwards,' I answered that I'd prefer his sister," he was quoted as saying on the BBC Sport website.

France would go on to lose that final on penalties after a 1-1 draw, but Zidane enjoyed a productive tournament otherwise, scoring three times (including an impudent penalty in the final) and producing some vintage displays. What a way to bow out, though.

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