There are no longer words to describe French legend, Zinedine Zidane who has been described in different for with superlative words. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
Zizou as he is fondly called is a retired French footballer and current manager of Real Madrid. He played as an attacking midfielder for the France national team, Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid.
Well-known for his elegance, vision, ball control and technique, Zidane was named the best European footballer of the past 50 years in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll.
According Jean Varraud, a former player who discovered Zidane, he said “He’d go past one, two, three, five, six players – it was sublime. His feet spoke with the ball” indeed he spoke with his feet. He had (has) the unique way of communicating with the ball and its responds uniquely as well.
Juventus teammate Edgar Davids, described him as a special player who creates space where there is none. . “No matter where he gets the ball or how it comes to him, he can get out of trouble. His imagination and his technique are amazing,” he once said.
On the international stage with France, Zidane won the 1998 FIFA World Cup, scoring twice in the final, and UEFA Euro 2000 where he was named Player of the Tournament. The World Cup triumph made him a national hero in France, and he received the Légion d’honneur in 1998.
Zidane was named the FIFA World Player of the Year three times, in 1998, 2000 and 2003, and won the 1998 Ballon d’Or. He was Ligue 1 Player of the Year in 1996, Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2001 and La Liga Best Foreign Player in 2002. Zidane received the Golden Ball for player of the tournament at the 2006 World Cup, despite his infamous sending off in the final against Italy for head-butting Marco Materazzi in the chest. Prior to the World Cup, he announced he would retire at the end of the tournament.
While he was active at club level, Zidane won the La Liga title and the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid, two Serie A league championships with Juventus and an Intercontinental Cup and a UEFA Super Cup each with both aforementioned teams. His 2001 transfer from Juventus to Real Madrid set a world record fee of an equivalent €75 million. His left-foot volleyed winner in the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final is considered to be one of the greatest goals in the competition’s history.
He has won every trophy available in every country he has played in. if he had played in Nigerian league; there is the very high possibility that he would win honours. He is simply attached to winning trophies, individual and collective awards.
After retirement, Zidane became assistant coach at Real Madrid under Carlo Ancelotti for the 2013–14 season. After a successful year in which the club won the UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey, Zidane became the coach of Real Madrid’s B team, Real Madrid Castilla.
As fate would have it, he was appointed head coach in January and he oversaw resurgence in a team that wasn’t living up to its prestige, character under Rafa Benitez. Madrid were off the pace in La Liga and not considered among the favourites in Europe. It was a wrong move from the onset for Fiorentino Perez to have sacked Carlo Ancelotti and hire Benitez.
Zizou inherited a team that was on a low momentum and transformed them into a force to be reckoned with once again in Europe. Interestingly, he lost only two matches as a coach – a 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid and 2-0 loss to Wolfsburg. He was able to reduce the 13 points gap between Los Blancos and Barcelona staring from a 2-1 victory in his first El-Classico as a coach.
Within five months of being in charge, he won the 11th European trophy and that is a record. Zidane, who lifted the trophy as a player in 2002, becomes the second man to have gone on to win it as coach at the Santiago Bernabeu, following in the footsteps of former midfield great Miguel Munoz.
Zidane sat alongside Ancelotti as Madrid claimed La Decima in 2013-14 and he scored one of the most beautiful goals in the history of UEFA champions’ league when he hit a wonderful volley back in 2002 that won Real Madrid their ninth European Cup crown and now in his own right, won the 11th. He is the first person to win the coveted trophy as a player, assistant coach and now as a coach. He just scored an extraordinary hat-trick.
The question is how did he manage to achieve this rare feat? Prior to his appointment in January, he had no games under his belt as a coach except as an assistant coach. It’s simple. He commands the respect of the players and there is this aura about him that draws people to him. He trains with the players and respects the individual players as well. Remember, respect begets respect.
Following his latest conquest, je admitted that his ‘positive attitude’ played a huge part in winning the ‘Undecima’ as well as demanding from the players to work extra hard. All players must work together as we have seen in games where Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema help out in defensive duties.
“What I’ve brought is my positive attitude. We have quality, but hard work is even more important and we’ve all worked really hard. I knew when I got the chance to coach this squad, that it was possible to achieve something big. And we have achieved that tonight,” he said in an interview in Milan after the match.
He believed in his capability to etch his name further in the history books and he has achieved it. He is now set to continue in his role next season after becoming the seventh person in history to have won the European Cup as both a player and a head coach.
NOTABLE QUOTES ON ZIDANE
“He dominates the ball, he is a walking spectacle and he plays as if he had silk gloves on each foot. He makes it worthwhile going to the stadium — he’s one of the best I have ever seen.”
—Alfredo Di Stéfano on Zidane after he was named World Player of the Year in 2003.
“The match you played last night was full of talent and professionalism. I know that you are sad and disappointed but what I want to tell you is that the whole country is extremely proud of you. You have honoured the country with your exceptional qualities and your fantastic fighting spirit, which was your strength in difficult times, but also in winning times.”
—President of France, Jacques Chirac, pays tribute to Zidane in Paris after the 2006 World Cup.
“Zidane is the master. Over the past ten years, there’s been no one like him, he has been the best player in the world. ”
“Technically, I think he is the king of what’s fundamental in the game — control and passing. I don’t think anyone can match him when it comes to controlling or receiving the ball.”
“Zidane was football’s answer to the Bolshoi Ballet. Zidane was elegance above all else.”
—Sid Lowe, football journalist.