Story by Ben Steele
The subject of this week’s profile is a very special man, one of the games greats and a man who provided some of the most incredible moments of genius, and madness, I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. He won FIFA World player of the year 3 times: in 1998, 2000 and 2003 and the Ballon D’or in 1998. This week we look at the career of Zinedine Zidane.
Name: Zinedine Yazid Zidane
Date of birth: 23rd June 1972
International Caps/Goals: 108/31
Born to Algerian immigrants in Marseille in 1972 Zinedine Zidane grew up in area known for high unemployment and crime. He spent his time playing football on the streets with other children. It is assumed that it was here that he toughened up; as his talent was already obvious the kids on the other team would often just try and kick him so he had to adapt to that. He started his playing career at Cannes where he played for 4 years before a move to Bordeaux where he really started making a name for himself. In the UEFA cup in 1995 we got a glimpse of his ability in a game against Real Betis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1Hh3ETcXAo
This sort of stuff meant that he was being looked at by many different clubs. Including big spending English club, Blackburn Rovers, although they decided not to sign him because as Jack Walker said “Who needs Zidane when you’ve got Tim Sherwood?”
Blackburn’s loss was Juventus’s gain, who signed him after Euro 96 for £3.2 million and was a part of the team that won the 1996/7 team and was also on the losing side in the 1997 Champions league final. He was then integral in Juventus retaining the Serie A title then went off to play in the world cup in his home country. France 98 was the first big tournament I watched properly and Zidane was obviously one of the key men in that tournament. He missed the game against Paraguay after a sending off against Saudi Arabia but it was the final when Zidane became the big man. He scored twice, both headers (probably not the biggest impact he’d make with his head in a world cup final, but we’ll get to that later), and lead France to a 3-0 win over Brazil. This sort of summed up his career; Zidane wasn’t a great goal scorer but the goals he got were massive. Just looking at his international career shows this, of the 31 goals 10 of them are at major tournaments and most of them are winning goals. That is the mark of a true great.
Moving back to club level, after he’d helped France win Euro 2000 Zizzou moved to Real Madrid for £53 million, a record fee at the time, and he back the archetypal Galactico. He was the lynchpin of that side and considering some of the guys he was playing with at the time that is no mean feat. Arguably his best moment in a Madrid shirt was at Hampden Park in 2002, yet again it was in a final. In the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen he scored an absolutely exquisite volley (with his “weaker” left foot) that ended up deciding the game and winning Zidane the only Champions League trophy of his career.
You’ve got to call that a decent hit don’t you?
Zizzou’s career ended with the 2006 World cup. After being convinced to come out of retirement by Raymond Domenech he was made captain of the side and was brilliant throughout the tournament. He was voted the best player of the tournament as he, almost single handedly, dragged France to the final. He scored an early penalty and that should have been a brilliant close to a brilliant career. With 10 minutes left in extra time Zidane reacted angrily to something Marco Materazzi had said and headbutted him in the chest. He was sent off and Italy went on to win the tournament on penalties. Incredibly the French media sided with Zidane and stated they completely support his actions. If that isn’t an indicator of the level of respect for the man I don’t know what is.
To conclude I’m going to leave you with this video:
If you do nothing else today, just watch that. A genuine class act.