Zinedine Zidane is number 6 in 90min’s top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time Series
The night of July 12 1998, crowds chanted ‘Zidane President’ at the top of their lungs in the centre of Paris, while a picture of Zinedine Zidane was projected onto the famous
Two goals and an overall man of the match performance in the final was enough to help his nation secure their first ever World Cup crown. Of course, it was a hugely impressive and domineering performance in the final, but over the course of his career, it became perfectly clear that Zidane was the talisman – the one who stepped up and delivered even when his side looked down and out.
ON THIS DAY: In 1998, Zinedine Zidane scored twice vs. Brazil to win the World Cup for France in Paris.
World-class performance. pic.twitter.com/3XDk6ZBFlG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 12, 2017
Zizou began his career at Cannes and he quickly made a name for himself, showing off his phenomenal talent. But the young Frenchman did show signs of sensitivity – reacting and lashing out when provoked.
Interest in Zidane grew and he was snapped up by Bordeaux for the 1992/93 season. During his time at the club, he continued to raise his game, achieving success along the way. He also made his debut for the national team – and it didn’t take him long to make his mark.
Zidane’s statistics weren’t exactly phenomenal, he wasn’t a prolific goalscorer, nor did he consistently provide assist after assist. But he dictated games, producing moments of magic that other players could only ever dream of. His ability to raise his leg to 90 degrees in the air in order to pluck an overhit pass out of the sky was sublime, but while others stopped to appreciate the excellence of what they had just seen, he had already assessed his next options.
His stunning performances saw him named Ligue 1 Player of the Year in 1996. Of course, he had already made a name for himself on the international scene, featuring for France at Euro ’96. However, it was during his time at Juventus where Zizou came to be regarded as one of the world’s very best footballers.
The midfielder actually made a fairly slow start to life in Turin, operating in a deep-lying midfield role. But he soon moved further up the field and settled, with his masterful displays in the centre of the park helping Juventus
Zidane was consistently showing his mesmerising talent, and opposition players were simply unable to cope with his silky touches and lightning quick feet.
He was making the unthinkable look exceedingly easy.
But he somehow raised his game to new heights as he led France to World Cup glory in the summer of 1998. This competition epitomised everything about Zidane.
The midfielder was sent off in France’s second group game against Saudi Arabia, meaning he missed their clashes against Denmark, as well as the round of 16 tussle with Paraguay. But why was he sent off in the first place? Well, he
Les Bleus went on to defeat Croatia in the semi-final, before Zidane produced that masterclass in the final. It was a truly breathtaking display from him, but it was what fans – and the footballing world – had become accustomed to. Zidane was the poster boy of the new French side.
He was rewarded for his performances as he won the Ballon d’Or later that year. It was nothing less than he deserved.
As a result of their success at the 1998 World Cup, France – and Zidane – went into Euro 2000 full of confidence. And sure enough, Les Bleus came away as European champions.
In 2001, Zidane joined Real Madrid for a then-record fee. In his first season, he was finally able to get his hands on the Champions League, scoring one of the most iconic goals in the final.
Yes, that one.
The technique. The patience. The connection. And….it was with his ‘weaker foot’.
As the ball looped up in the air, Zidane waited and set himself before unleashing a ferocious strike into the top corner – a goal that made Real Madrid champions of Europe.
Zinedine Zidane turns 46 today…
Any excuse to relive this incredible volley from 2002
The best ever in a Champions League final? pic.twitter.com/8yz7NnTFOr
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) June 23, 2018
Los Blancos went on to win La Liga the following season, with Zidane, yep you guessed it, being named FIFA World Player of the Year – for a third time. He went on to achieve further success with the Spanish giants, establishing himself as a legend of the club. At international level, while he did retire after Euro 2004, he came back to captain his country at the 2006 World Cup.
Of course, another Player of the Tournament award came his way, but unfortunately, his performances at the tournament were overshadowed by his decision to headbutt Marco Materazzi in the final. France went on to lose to Italy, leading to some supporters asking how he could do such a thing.
But this shouldn’t take anything away from Zidane’s impact on the ‘new France’ – he was the poster boy, guiding them to success. This was part of what made Zidane the player he was, his emotion and passion dictating how he played. There are simply no two ways about it, he is one of the truly greatest players of all time.
In the words of Alfredo di Stefano, Zidane really did play as though he had silk gloves on each foot.
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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