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Legendary Football Players: Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

125. Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Yazid Zidane (born 23 June 1972) is a retired French World Cup-winning footballer. “Zizou” was widely considered one of football's all-time greats, Zidane played for club teams in France, Italy and Spain, and was a member of the French national team. His career accomplishments include helping France win the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000, in addition to winning the 2002 UEFA Champions League as a galactico with Real Madrid. One of only two three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winners along with Ronaldo, Zidane was also named the European Footballer of the Year in 1998. He retired from professional football after the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Zidane joined the junior team of US Saint-Henri, a local club in the La Castellane district of Marseille. At the age of 14, he participated in the first-year junior selection for the league championship, where he caught the attention of AS Cannes scout Jean Varraud. He went to Cannes for a six-week stay, but ended up remaining at the club for four years to play at the professional level. Zidane played his first Ligue 1 match at seventeen, and scored his first goal on 8 February 1991, for which he received a car as a gift from the team president. His first season with Cannes culminated in a UEFA Cup berth.

Zidane was transferred to Girondins de Bordeaux for €7 million in the 1992–93 season, winning the 1995 Intertoto Cup and finishing runner-up in the 1995–96 UEFA Cup in four years with the club. He played a set of midfield combinations with Bixente Lizarazu and Christophe Dugarry, which would become the trademark of both Bordeaux and the 1998 French national team. In 1995, Blackburn Rovers coach Ray Harford had expressed interest in signing both Zidane and Dugarry, to which team owner Jack Walker reportedly replied, "Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?"

In 1996, Zidane moved to Champions League winners Juventus for a fee of £3.2 million, and won the 1996–97 Scudetto and the Intercontinental Cup, but lost the 1997 UEFA Champions League final 3–1 to Borussia Dortmund. He netted seven goals in 32 matches to help Juventus retain the Scudetto the next season and make their third consecutive UEFA Champions League final appearance, losing 1-0 to Real Madrid which would be his next destination. Juventus were runners-up in 2000–01, but were eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League, during which Zidane was sent off for head butting Hamburger SV player Jochen Kientz.
In 2001, Zidane joined Real Madrid for a then world record fee of €78 million and signed a four-year contract. He scored the match-winning goal, a thunderous volley hit with his weaker foot, in Madrid's 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final completing this personal quadruple. The next season, Zidane helped Real Madrid to win the Spanish league title and was named the FIFA World Player of the Year for the third time. In 2004, fans voted him atop UEFA's fiftieth-anniversary Golden Jubilee Poll, and he was included in the FIFA 100.

Despite scoring his first-ever hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Sevilla FC, Zidane's final season of club football ended trophyless. On 7 May 2006, Zidane, who had announced his plans to retire after the 2006 World Cup, played his last home match and scored in a 3-3 draw with Villarreal CF. The squad wore commemorative jerseys with "ZIDANE 2001–2006" below the club logo.

Both France and Algeria consider Zidane a citizen, but he was ineligible to play for the Algerian national team. There was also a rumor that coach Abdelhamid Kermali denied him a position for the Algerian squad because he felt the young midfielder was not fast enough. However, Zidane dismissed the rumor in a 2005 interview, saying that he would have been ineligible to play for Algeria because he had already played for France.
He earned his first cap with France as a substitute in a friendly against the Czech Republic on 17 August 1994, which ended in a 2-2 draw after Zidane scored twice to help France erase a 2-0 deficit. After Éric Cantona was handed a year-long suspension in January 1995 for assaulting a fan, Zidane took over the playmaker position. France were eliminated in the UEFA Euro 1996 semifinals in a penalty shootout by the Czech Republic after the match ended 0-0 in extra time.

Zidane won the 1998 FIFA World Cup with France, scoring twice in the final against defending champions Brazil. He finished with two goals as France then won UEFA Euro 2000, becoming the first team to hold both the World Cup and the European Championship since West Germany in 1974. A thigh injury prevented Zidane from playing in France's first two matches in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. He rushed back prematurely for the third game despite not being fully fit, but could not prevent France from being ignominiously eliminated in the group stage without scoring a single goal.

After France were eliminated in the UEFA Euro 2004 quarterfinals by eventual winners Greece on 12 June 2004, Zidane retired from international football. With the mass retirement of veteran key players such as Bixente Lizarazu, Marcel Desailly and others, France struggled to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. However, at the urging of coach Raymond Domenech, Zidane came out of retirement and was immediately reinstated as team captain. He made his competitive return in a 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands on 3 September 2005, as France went on to win their qualifying group.

On 27 May 2006, Zidane earned his hundredth cap for France in a 1-0 friendly win over Mexico, becoming France's fourth player ever to reach this milestone, after Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps and Lilian Thuram. He was substituted early in the second half.

After being suspended on yellow cards from the final match of the group stage, Zidane set up a goal for Patrick Vieira and scored one himself in the 91st minute of the second round match against Spain. As France held Brazil to just one shot on goal in the rematch of the 1998 final, Zidane's free kick led to Thierry Henry's deciding goal, sealing a 1-0 win. Zidane was named Man of the Match by FIFA. Before the final match, Zidane was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the competition.

By scoring a 7th minute penalty in the final, Zidane became only the fourth player in World Cup history to score in two different finals, along with Pelé, Paul Breitner, and Vavá, in addition to being tied for first place with Vavá, Pelé and Geoff Hurst with three World Cup final goals apiece. Zidane was sent off in extra time after head butting Marco Materazzi following verbal taunts and insults from the Italian player, and so did not participate in the penalty shootout, which Italy won 5–3. Despite the incident, Zidane was allowed to keep the Golden Ball award.

On June 1, 2009, Zidane was announced as the Advisor to the President as Florentino Perez was named President of Real Madrid for the second time. He also regularly plays for Real Madrid Veterans team. He along with Jorge Valdano, General Director, and Miguel Pardeza, Sporting Director, will be the key decision makers on the sporting side of the club.

France's Zinedine Zidane
Brazil's Pele
Argentina's Diego Maradona