Zinedine Zidane is number 6 in 90min’s Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time Series.
Zinedine Zidane had the perfect blend of astonishing technical ability and physical strength.
His first touch was a thing of beauty, while his skill and overall understanding of the game made him an absolute nightmare to play against. Zidane was a truly phenomenal talent in the middle of the park and while he may be renowned as perhaps the most elegant player of all time.
Here’s a look back at six of the best moments from Zizou’s stellar career…
Stunner for Bordeaux
Zidane came through at Cannes before he eventually joined Bordeaux. During the 1995/96 campaign, the French side finished runners-up to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup. They did face a scare in the third round of the competition, however.
They came up against Real Betis, and they secured a comfortable 2-0 win in the first leg at home. And although they lost the second 2-1, they did enough to progress.
It was Zidane’s goal in the second leg which proved decisive for his side. In just the third minute of the game, the goalkeeper launched the ball up field, which was flicked on. Without hesitating, Zidane let the ball bounce once and decided to have a go, having already weighed up his options.
His left-footed (yes, his left foot) strike from around 40 yards out flew over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the net, sparking wild celebrations from his teammates.
The awareness. The execution. The audacity. Simply sensational.
Masterclass vs Ajax
Zidane’s performance against Ajax in the 1997 Champions League semi-final for Juventus was simply sublime. The Bianconeri came into the clash holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg, but an inch-perfect corner from Zidane was headed home after 34 minutes by
World Cup Glory
France hosted the World Cup for the second time in their history in 1998, and going into the tournament expectations were high.
Les Bleus went on to win their three group games, before they required extra time to edge past Paraguay in the last 16 of the competition. Zidane, who was suspended for the previous two games, came back for the quarter final tussle with Italy. A tight game ended 0-0, but Zidane’s penalty in the shoot-out helped the French knock the Italians out of the competition.
They overcame Croatia in the semi-finals to book their place in the final, where they were to play Brazil – who had won the competition four years prior.
Two goals in the final as well as an overall man of the match display from Zidane helped guide his nation to an unprecedented victory. Les Bleus swept Brazil aside 3-0 to win their first ever World Cup, and Zidane was at the heart of it.
A special night in French footballing history.
Zidane actually made a fairly slow start to life at Juventus, operating in a deep-lying midfield position. However, he soon found his feet, moving slightly further up the pitch to impact the game more.
In his first season with the Bianconeri, he won the Intercontinental Cup, Super Cup as well as Serie A. The Italian giants successfully defended their crown the following season, but they were unable to go all the way in the Champions League.
During this time, Zidane had proven himself as one of the world’s very best players, making the impossible look effortless. And following his success at the World Cup with France, he won the Ballon d’Or, while he was also named FIFA World Player of the Year.
That Volley in 2002 Champions League Final
Arguably the greatest goal to have ever been scored in the Champions League.
In Zidane’s first season with Real Madrid, he completed the set as he finally got his hands on the Champions League crown. Los Blancos were drawing 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen in the final, and were in need of someone to produce a moment of magic.
Zidane provided it – and then some.
A cross from Roberto Carlos looped up into the air, and it seemingly took an age before the Frenchman’s left boot connected perfectly. The technique to allow the ball to drop and strike it with his ‘weaker foot’ into the top corner was nothing short of phenomenal. Goalkeeper had no chance.
Not a bad way to score the winning goal in the Champions League. Not bad at all.
2006 World Cup
Zidane had, in fact, retired from the international scene two years prior, but his services were once again required as the national team came calling. Some were joyous, while others questioned the decision to bring back a 34-year-old who was set to hang up his boots in the not-too-distant future.
However, Zidane was still at his supreme best, picking up the Player of the Tournament award.
Of course, Zizou’s 2006 World Cup will primarily be remembered for that headbutt, which saw him sent off in the final. And while that was a pretty impressive connection, it was his performances throughout the tournament that should be remembered and spoken about instead.
The dazzling Frenchman came back from suspension to grab an assist and score in the round of 16 clash with Spain, setting up a tussle with Brazil in the next round.
Zidane ran the show.
Zizou was as elegant as ever, pirouetting his way around his opponents and plucking balls out of the sky effortlessly. This was, of course, mixed with the perfect amount of aggression and physicality, easing his opponents off the ball before humiliating them with a piece of skill. He also assisted the winning goal.
It ended in despair, but this shouldn’t take away from his sheer excellence.
90min’s ‘Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time’ can be found here.
Number 50: Luka Modric
Number 49: John Charles
Number 48: Hugo Sanchez
Number 47: Jairzinho
Number 46: Omar Sivori
Number 45: Paolo Rossi
Number 44: Paul Breitner
Number 43: George Weah
Number 42: Kaka
Number 41: Lev Yashin
Number 40: Gunnar Nordahl
Number 39: Kevin Keegan
Number 38: Hristo Stoichkov
Number 37: Gianluigi Buffon
Number 36: Johan Neeskens
Number 35: Xavi Hernandez
Number 34: Luis Suarez
Number 33: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Number 32: Andres Iniesta
Number 31: Rivelino
Number 30: Bobby Moore
Number 29: Socrates
Number 28: Sandor Kocsis
Number 27: Lothar Matthaus
Number 26: Ronaldinho
Number 25: Ruud Gullit
Number 24: Bobby Charlton
Number 23: Giuseppe Meazza
Number 22: Raymond Kopa
Number 21: Romario
Number 20: Eusebio
Number 19: Marco van Basten
Number 18: George Best
Number 17: Zico
Number 16: Franco Baresi
Number 15: Cristiano Ronaldo
Number 14: Ferenc Puskas
Number 13: Paolo Maldini
Number 12: Gerd Müller
Number 11: Mané Garrincha
Number 10: Alfredo Di Stefano
Number 9: Roberto Baggio
Number 8: Michel Platini
Number 7: Ronaldo