Legends: Zinedine Zidane
Throughout this series, Total Football will be looking at the legends of football. But what constitutes being a legend?
In football it can mean a number of things. It can relate to someone who has played the game at the highest level for a number of years, a player who has won an array of silverware for club and country.
A legend in football can also transpire to that player who scored the winning goal in a cup final, or whose goal took his side into the premier League for the first time in the club's history.
Whichever way you want to look at it, there is no way a legends list can be compiled without Zinedene Zidane. Described as “The Scientist,” Zidane is regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation.
His determination, passion and overall ability, often left dazzled opposition players breaking sweat to get back in the game. Zidane is, in the simplest of terms, a legend of football.
Zidane’s professional career started at Cannes, before he moved onto Bordeaux and later Italian giants Juventus. His performances for the club earned him rave reviews, collecting two Serie A titles and two Foreign Footballer of the Year awards in his five years at the club.
It wasn’t long before Zidane was moved to an even bigger stage. Starting in 2000 with the capture of £38.7 million man Luis Figo, Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid was beginning to build what was to be known as the Galacticos era.
This describes Perez’s transfer policy, where he would pursue and capture the biggest players in world football. On July 9th, 2001, Zidane became the most expensive player in the world, when he became the latest Galactico, in a deal that passed the £44 million mark.
The transfer policy, at first, seemed to work. Zidane scored the winning goal in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayern Leverkusen and was also a part of the 2003 La Liga winning squad.
And success was not limited to the club scene. In the modern day, it has been said that Lionel Messi cannot be described as the best player ever until he wins something with Argentina. People also scratch their heads as to why the likes of Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney can do so well domestically, yet when it comes to putting on an England shirt, they stutter.
Zidane had no such problems. When the French number 10 played at international level, magic often occurred. In 1998, Zidane scored two goals in the World Cup Final, helping France on their way to a resounding 3-0 victory over Brazil. Brazilian legend Pele described Zidane as “the magician in the game.”
This was followed by a 2-1 win over Italy in the 2000 European Championship final marking one of the most successful periods in French football.
However, despite being the iconic figure of this French domination and arguably the best midfielder in the world, Zidane was not without his problems. In the 2000-2001 Champions League campaign, Zidane was sent off for Juventus after head-butting Jochen Kientz of Hamburger SV.
Sadly, this was not the last time Zidane used his head for all the wrong reasons. In the 2006 World Cup Final, Zidane mixed beauty with madness. In the seventh minute, Zidane converted a penalty with a delicately weighted chip that went in on the underside of the crossbar.
Any ounce of cool that Zidane managed to keep during that moment was, however lost in extra time, when he head-butted Marco Matterazzi.
His actions earned him a red card and the image of Zidane ending his career by walking passed the World Cup, knowing he had seriously dented his country's hopes of lifting it, is as depressing as they come.
But it would be wrong to end on such a sombre note. Regardless of his actions in his final game, Zidane is still one of the best midfield players of the last 20 years. I want to end this article with quotes form renowned footballers, describing one of the most legendary players football has ever had.
“Real Madrid was recently voted the best club in the world by FIFA and for that we must have the best players in the world. Zidane is one of those.” Florentino Perez, Real Madrid president, 2001.
“Zidane is one of the greatest players in history, a truly magnificent player.” Franz Beckenbauer.
“I think Zidane is the greatest talent we've known in football these last 20 years, yet he never played the prima donna. I am honored to have been his manager.” Marcello Lippi.
By Steve Moorhouse