Zizou. Story of a Legend

Sports & RecreationsSports

  • Author Lewis Davison
  • Published September 14, 2020
  • Word count 2,165

Zidane was born on 23rd of June 1972 in Marseille. He started his youth career with local team Saint-Henri. Only a year and a half later he joined SO Septemes-les-Vallons where he stayed until age 14, as he was chosen to attend a 3-day training camp at CREPS (a centre for sports) run by the French Football Federation. Whilst attending, Zidane was spotted by the AS Cannes scout and was offered a trial.

Zidane spent 6-weeks on a trial and was offered a spot in the youth academy where he spent a few years before being called up to the youth team. This was about the time where Zidane was noticed to have something special about him and former player, Jean Varraud, was the 1st to give him some media spotlight “His feet spoke with the ball”. He made his debut in a match against Nantes in May of 1989 and scored his 1st goal about a year and a half later against Nantes in a 2-1 win. After, the team celebrated, and Zidane was rewarded with a car by chairman Alain Pedretti. The way he glided along the pitch, taking on player-after-player with such ease, showed glimpses of the player he could become. During his 1st full season with Cannes, he helped them secure their 1st ever European football after qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

For the 1992-93 season, he transferred to Boudeaux. Over a 4 year spell with the club he formed a midfield trio with Lizarazu and Dugarry which ended AC Milan’s European dominance. When in 1996 Bordeaux reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League, they had drawn Italian giants, AC Milan, but the odds were greatly stacked against Bordeaux. In the first leg, a Milan team containing the likes of Baresi and Maldini cruised to a 2-0 victory which would against most have put the tie to bed. However, Bordeaux managed to miraculously overturn the score line, by winning 3-0. This was mainly thanks to Dugarry who scored a brace and Tholot scored one as well.

Towards the end of the 1995-96 season, Zidane was offered to Newcastle United for £1.2 million, but ludicrously Newcastle rejected the offer. After a great season, in fact Zidane’s best season, he won the Ligue One Player of The Season. By this point, the best of the best in Europe were watching Zidane very closely. The club that Zidane chose to move to were eventual UEFA Champions League winners, Juventus. Although Zidane was older, major comparisons were being made between Zidane and Ronaldinho as they both played for each respective team in the same playmaker position. Ronaldinho was more of a finesse player which much more trickery skills, most probably from his time on the Brazilian beaches, but Zidane was arguably the more complete of a midfielder. Zidane used his trademark dribbling technique where he stopped the ball. The pace of the game seemed to slow everytime he received it, which in many regards would’ve been seen as a negative, however, this style of his created space for others and allowed teammates to push forward. He played in a marauding midfield of Dider Deschamps and Antonio Conte, but strangely was asked to play as a deep-lying playmaker for the 1st time in his career, a defensive role that proved to be massively out of his depth. This resulted in Zidane being dropped from the first-team until a turn in his fortunes. Antonio Conte had an injury that kept him out for an awfully long time, so a slot opened up in the team. Manager Lippi had changed to a 4-4-2 giving Zidane a much more expressive role in the system. Unsurprisingly, Zidane thrived using his composure mixed with his vision and creativity to be the perfect player along-side Deschamps. Zidane was also helped by the player just ahead of him on the pitch, Alessandro Del Piero, who scored 208 goals whilst at Juventus making 513 appearances.

In the 1997-98 season, Zidane grew not only technically, but physically and straight away you could tell that he was going to have a good season. Lippi moved to a 3-4-1-2 with Zidane playing as the number 10. This suited Juve with recent signing Edgar David joining from Ajax, a player who would prove to lockdown the defensive areas of the pitch so that Zidane would have the authority to stay in advanced areas on the pitch. Ahead of him was Italian duo, Filippo Inzaghi and Del Piero, two of the best forwards in Italy to ever play complimented beautifully with Zidane’s creativity and vision. That season, they regained the Scudetto and for the third consecutive time, Zidane reach the final of the UEFA Champions League, unfortunately losing 1-0 to his future club, Real Madrid. This meant that next season Juventus would have to regroup, to once more fight for the Champions League. After some unconvincing and poor performances to start the campaign, this caused them to drop out of the competition as Celta Vigo would get the better of them. This did give Juventus the chance to focus solely on the Seria-A and new manager Carlo Ancelotti was willing to throw the kitchen sink at this competition for the 1999-2000 season. This season ended up being one of the greatest, most thrilling title races of modern football between them, Sven Eriksson’s Lazio side containing the like of Diego Simeone and Pavel Nedved. Juventus led throughout the season, but Lazio always seemed to keep tabs on things and in April, both teams clashed at the Delle Alpi. Coming into this game, Juventus still lead the league with still just one loss, they just about were the favourites to win. The two players at the centre of attention were, at the time, 2 of the best playmakers. Zidane vs Nedved, Juventus vs Lazio, both teams started the game warily, afraid to make a mistake. No side was able to break down each other, until suddenly, Juventus centre-half Ciro Ferrera was sent-off and due to a man advantage, Lazio took the lead in the second-half. This is how the game ended. With 3 games remaining in the season, they had a 5 point lead over Lazio. Juventus just needed two positive results to end the season, but up first against Verona, they lost 2-0, giving Lazio hope. On the penultimate game of the season, a controversial and only goal from Del Piero gave Juventus a 1-0 win, leaving it all down to the final day. A win against Perugia would mean the title would be theirs. Against all odd, Perugia snuck a single goal, which Juve couldn’t do anything about. 90 minutes of relentless pressure, all for nothing. They had fallen short of Lazio, no major trophies for them. Zidane did however stay for the next season, but once again dropping out of the Champions League, he wanted to leave.

In 2001, Zinedine Zidane joined Real Madrid for a world record fee, around 80 million euros. In his first season with the Galacticos, he scored what arguably was his most famous goal. A left-footed side volley from just inside the box that won the Champions League Final against Bayer Leverkusen. This system in which Real Madrid played under Vicente del Bosque was a narrow variation of the 4-4-2. Makelele held the middle of the park in his trademark position whilst Zidane played as the most advanced of the four central midfielders. He supported the Balon D’or runner up, Raul and forward Morientes. With Madrid’s heavily influenced midfield, this created lots of space for attacking full-backs Salgado and memorably Roberto Carlos to push high up the pitch, creating width in the side. Carlos was one of the first of this new generational role where full-backs are inducted to “get forward”. Next season, Real Madrid won La Liga, the 2002-03 season. Zidane and midfield partnership Luis Figo dominated the division, with Figo winning FIFA World Player of the Year for the third time. In his final season with the club, Real Madrid did not win any major trophies, however, Zidane did enjoy some personal success. He scored his first hat-trick against Sevilla in a 4-2 win. He ended the season as the second top goalscorer for the Galacticos in a team that featured 19 year olds Sergio Ramos who would go on to be one of their best ever Centre-halfs, David Beckham, the Brazilian Ronaldo who both finished respectively top goalscorers that season. He then took the decision to retire on the 7th of May 2006 after the World Cup

Zidane’s International Career

Zidane had the choice between playing for France or Algeria as he was considered a citizen of both. Rumour has it, the Algerian manager rejected Zidane because he wasn’t “fast enough”. In 1993, Zidane was a part of the French U-21 team and just a year later, he earned his international debut as a substitute in a friendly against the Czech Republic. France were 2-0 down by the time Zidane enter the field, come full time Zidane had scored a brace and the game had finished 2-2. Zidane took Eric Cantona’s playmaker position after he was suspended from football for a year. Euro 1996 was Zidane’s first chance at an International major tournament. He did not play at his best; however, France did reach the Semi-finals but lost on penalties to Czech Republic. At this time, Zidane wasn’t at his potential and was just an average player for the French National side. The 1998 world cup was held in France. After winning all 3 games in the group stage against South Africa and Saudia Arabi, however, he was sent off for stamp in one of the group stage games for a stamp on Fuad Anwar. This was a new record, the first ever French player to be sent off in the World Cup Finals, they do say he was a record breaker. In the last 16 of the World Cup, France progressed past Paraguay without Zidane, and they now had to play an extraordinarily strong Italy side in the Quarter-Finals. 120 minutes of football was in this tie without either team managing to break the deadlock. The whole game had been of poor quality, defensive sophisticated football and so penalties it was. Zidane scored France’s 1st spot kick with another 3 of its takers scoring. Only 3 players scored for Italy, meaning that when it came to Luis Di Biagio’s penalty, he had to score. His penalty ricocheted of the crossbar and the whole of France erupted, a quite remarkable game, leaving French coach, Aime Jacquet “exhausted”. France then went on to beat Croatia 2-1 in the semi-finals leaving just Brazil in their way. Brazil were defending champions of the competition with players in their ranks such as Cafu, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Bebeto. France dominated the early stages of the game and Zidane, who hadn’t scored all competition, popped up with two similar headers putting France 2-0 up at the half-way mark. Midfielder Emmanuel Petit added a third to the tally putting any doubt away. This was their 1st ever World Cup win and Zidane became an instant national hero after winning man of the match.

Just 2 years later, France won Euro’s 2002 and they were the 1st ever team to hold both the World Cup and the Euro’s at the same time. Zidane had scored a stunning free-kick against Spain in the Quarter-finals which was one of the goals of the tournament and he was the match winner against Portugal in the Semi-finals. He was named Player of the tournament.

As reigning champions of the World Cup and the Euro’s, they entered the 2002 World cup full of expectations. But crazily, France were eliminated from the Group Stage without scoring a single goal, an embarrassing campaign, the worst ever from a defending champion. They were better to start with in Euro 2004, finishing over England and Switzerland but had a shock loss to Greece in the Quarter-Final who were eventual champions. After losing both of their titles, Zidane added to the blow by retiring from International football.

For the 2006 World Cup, France’s manager, Domenech urged Zidane to come out of retirement and be captain, which he did so. In the second round match, Zidane set up Patrick Viera’s goal and even grabbed one for himself. In the Quarters, France beat Brazil and then Portugal in the Semi’s. The final against Italy was one of Zidane’s most memorable matches. He put France ahead with a great Panenka penalty just seven minutes in and as Italy equalised the game went to extra-time. Zidane had an altercation with Marco Materazzi because Materazzi had said something to Zidane about his mother, something I will not repeat causing Zidane to spiral out of control and headbutt him. Zidane was sent off and as a result, France lost on penalties.

Zidane then retired shortly after. During his time as a player, he made 447 appearances in all competitions and scored over 80 goals.

Written for https://legendsfootballshirts.co.uk

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