Who is Zinedine Zidane?
Talk about the talismans in the soccer world and the list would be incomplete without mentioning the name of the much skilled and talented Zinedine Zidane. A magnificent professional, Zidane is one of the greatest players in the history of football. A master at the fundamentals and techniques of the game, Zidane is known for his great control and dribbling skills, in addition to his magic touch, focused vision, and great leadership traits. During his playing years, he was one of the best players when it came to receiving and controlling the ball. In his 108 international outings, he scored 31 goals. Zidane’s passion for the game started when he was young. Back then, little did people known that he would create history in the soccer world with his amazing talent and prowess. He had an amazing career graph with a win each at the ‘FIFA World Cup’ (1998) and ‘Euro’ (2000), playing for France. During his time as a player, he was the most prominent player for France. For his excellence, Zidane has been bestowed with many coveted awards and honors, including the ‘FIFA World Player of the Year’ and ‘Ballon D'Or.’ He was awarded the 2006 ‘FIFA World Cup Golden Ball’ on his retirement for his outstanding contribution to the game.
Childhood & Early Life
Zinedine Zidane was born on 23 June 1972, in Marseille, France, to Smaïl and Malika. He has four older siblings. His family, which is of Algerian Kabyle Berber descent, resided in the northern Marseille suburb of La Castellane.
While his father was a warehouseman by profession, his mother was a homemaker. Unlike people in the neighborhood, the Zidane family was a respected lot and lived a reasonably comfortable life unlike others who were unemployed and involved in high crime.
Young Zidane was introduced to the game of football at the tender age of five. Along with the neighbourhood children, he played the game at the Place Tartane, which was the main square of the housing complex.
It was during his early days that Zidane was influenced by Olympique Marseille players like Blaz Sliskovic, Enzo Francescoli, and Jean-Pierre Papin, who were his idols.
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Zidane received his player license at the age of ten for the junior team of a local club from La Castellane. His term at the club was a short-lived one as he moved to ‘SO Septemes-les-Vallons’ after about a year and a half.
Zidane’s alliance with ‘Septemes’ lasted for two and a half years, after which he was selected for a three-day training camp at the ‘CREPS’ in Aix-en-Provence. His outstanding capability with the ball and the technique that he possessed brought him to the notice of ‘AS Cannes’ scout Jean Varraud who recommended him to the training center director of the club.
Intended to be a six-week stay, Zidane ended up spending four years at ‘Cannes.’ He spent the first few months with other trainees at the dormitory, and then went on to stay with ‘Cannes’ director Jean-Claude Elineau and his family. It was while spending time with the Elineau family that Zidane found equilibrium.
Professional Club Years
Zidane’s professional debut was for ‘Cannes’ in the ‘Ligue 1’ match against ‘Nantes’ on May 18, 1989.
In 1991, he scored his first goal against ‘Nantes,’ securing his team a 2-1 win. With Zidane by its side, the club went on to earn its first ever European football berth by qualifying for the ‘UEFA Cup’ after finishing fourth in the league. It was the club’s highest finish in the top flight.
In 1992-93, Zidane played for ‘Girondins de Bordeaux.’ His performance was top notch and the club went on to win the 1995 ‘Intertoto Cup.’ In 1995-96, the club finished second in the ‘UEFA Cup.’
On the field, Zidane, along with Bixente Lizarazu and Christophe Dugarry, came up with a set of midfield combinations which went on to become a trademark for ‘Bordeaux’ and the 1998 French national team.
In 1996, Zidane moved to ‘UEFA Champions League’ winners ‘Juventus’ for a whopping £3.2 million. ‘Juventus’ not only recorded a win in the 1996-97 ‘Serie A,’ but also brought home the ‘Intercontinental Cup.’
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‘Juventus’ lost the 1997 ‘UEFA Champions League’ final to ‘Borussia Dortmund’ as Zidane’s skills were negated by Paul Lambert.
The year 1998 was a successful one for Zidane who held the record for scoring seven goals in 32 matches. His club not only won the 1997-98 ‘Serie A,’ but retained the ‘Scudetto’ as well. ‘Juventus’ made it to the ‘UEFA Champions League’ final for the third time, but lost to ‘Real Madrid.’
Zidane joined ‘Real Madrid’ in the year 2001 for a then world record fee of 150 billion Italian lire. The investment was worth it as Zidane helped ‘Real Madrid’ gain convincing wins during his four-year contract. He scored the famous match-winning goal, a volley hit with his weaker foot, in Madrid's 2–1 win over ‘Bayer Leverkusen’ in the 2002 ‘UEFA Champions League’ final.
In the following seasons, Zidane won the 2002–03 ‘La Liga’ for ‘Real Madrid.’ Subsequently, he was honored with many awards for his outstanding performance.
Though Zidane could not win any trophies for ‘Real Madrid’ during his final season for the club, his personal statistics were still good. He scored his first ever hat-trick against ‘Sevilla FC’ in a 4–2 win in January 2006, and was the second-highest goal-scorer for ‘Real Madrid’ during the season.
Zidane’s last home match for the club was on May 7, 2006, when he scored in a 3–3 draw against ‘Villarreal CF.’
Zidane’s first stint at the international level came in a friendly match against Czech Republic where he played as a substitute. Though he was used as a substitute, his entry was the saving grace for the team as he scored twice, helping France to a 2-2 draw.
It was Eric Cantona’s year-long suspension that acted as a boon for Zidane as he successfully took over the playmaker position in 1995. The following year, France was eliminated from the ‘Euro 96’ semi-finals in the penalty shootout after the match had ended with none of the teams scoring a goal.
Zidane’s first appearance at the ‘FIFA World Cup’ was in the year 1998. Throughout the tournament, he showed promise and character. He was outstanding in every game that he played, but had a tough time scoring a goal. France moved up the chart, defeating each of its opponents to reach the semi-finals, where it defeated Croatia by 2–1, gaining an entry into the finals.
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France was to play the 1998 ‘FIFA World Cup’ final against defending champions Brazil, a team that was considered favorites to win the cup. Zidane, who had not scored a goal at the ‘World Cup,’ went on to score two goals, both headers, giving France an upper-hand in the first half as the scorecard read 2-0. At the end of the second half, France won the game and its first ever ‘World Cup.’ Zidane was instantly crowned as the national hero.
Two years later, France won the ‘Euro 2000,’ thus becoming the first nation to hold both the ‘World Cup’ and ‘European Championship’ since West Germany in 1974. Once again, Zidane was the hero of the tournament as he finished with two goals, one at the quarter-final against Spain and another at the semi-final against Portugal.
The reigning world and European champions, however, had a tough luck at the 2002 ‘FIFA World Cup’ as Zidane, their most trusted and able player, suffered from thigh injury. Without him by the side, France lost their first two games. Zidane was brought back for the third game, despite being unfit. However, his medical condition obstructed him from playing his best, thus adding to the woes of the defending champions who were eliminated in the group stage without scoring a single goal.
‘Euro 2004’ was reportedly Zidane’s last tournament as he intended to retire thereafter. France topped their group with wins over England and Switzerland, before losing to Greece in the quarter-finals.
Zidane’s retirement came at a time when other veteran players of France were retiring too. Without some of its key players, France struggled to qualify for the 2006 ‘World Cup.’ Upon the request of the then coach Raymond Domenech, Zidane made a comeback and was immediately reinstated as the team’s captain.
Under Zidane’s captaincy, France showed spark and character. The team defeated its opponents to reach the quarter-finals against Brazil. France then defeated Brazil 1-0.
Zidane’s penalty kick proved to be decisive in the semi-finals as France defeated Portugal to reach the finals against Italy. The 2006 ‘FIFA World Cup’ final was the last match of his career. Zidane gave France an upper hand, just minutes after the start of the game as he scored a goal, taking full advantage of a penalty kick. However, a heated argument followed by a headbutt to knock Marco Materazzi down earned Zidane a red card. He was not allowed to participate in the penalty shootout which Italy won 5–3.
Retirement & Thereafter
The 2006 ‘FIFA World Cup’ final against Italy was the last match played by Zidane.
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Ever since his retirement, he has regularly played for the ‘Real Madrid Veterans’ team. He has also made several futsal appearances.
In 2009, Zidane was made an advisor to President Florentino Perez of ‘Real Madrid.’ Along with General Director Jorge Valdano and Sporting Director Miguel Pardeza, Zidane served as a key decision-maker for the club.
In 2010, he served as the high-profile ambassador of Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 ‘World Cup.’ In 2010, Zidane also became a special advisor for ‘Real Madrid,’ following the coach’s request to work more closely with the team. The following year, he was made the club’s sporting director.
In 2012, Zidane started coaching the club’s youth academy, which was the first step towards him calling the shots from the sidelines of the field. The same year, he played in the ‘All Stars Match’ against ‘Manchester United,’ which ‘Real Madrid’ won 3-2.
In June 2014, Zidane became the head coach for Real Madrid’s B Team, ‘Real Madrid Castilla.’ In early 2016, he was appointed as the manager for ‘Real Madrid’ and led the team to a win against ‘FC Barcelona,’ breaking Barcelona’s 39 match unbeaten run.
In his first full season as a manager, the club recorded 16 consecutive victories, overtaking their previous 15 wins and equaling Barcelona’s record. He also led the team to 2016 ‘UEFA Champions League’ final which ‘Real Madrid’ won through penalty shootout.
He led the team to their second consecutive win at the 2017 ‘UEFA Champions League’ against ‘Manchester,’ becoming the second coach to achieve this feat since 1990. The team also won the ‘European Cup’ three times in a row, making him the first coach to accomplish three wins in consecutive seasons.
After resigning as the coach in May 2018, Zidane was requested to become the head coach of ‘Real Madrid’ in March 2019, following the poor results of the team. He was then signed to be their head coach until the summer of 2022.
Zidane has played many games for charitable purposes. His first ever was the 2007 match for ‘Keuydaroon children's AIDS charity,’ where he scored a goal and set up a second goal for his Malaysian teammate. The event collected a sum of $7,750 which was utilized for building two schools and 16 three-bedroom houses.
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The following year, he participated in the fifth annual ‘Match Against Poverty’ in Malaga, Spain. Though he did not score a goal, he was involved in setting up one for his teammate. The event is held annually to benefit the ‘United Nations Development Programme.’ Every year, many active footballers, professional athletes, and celebrities take part in the event.
In 2009, Zidane toured across Canada, halting at Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. The proceeds from the event were given to ‘UNICEF.’
In the 2010 bi-annual charity event ‘Soccer Aid,’ Zidane played for the ‘Rest of the World’ team against England. Veteran soccer players, such as Henrik Larsson, Kenny Dalglish, Teddy Sheringham, David Seaman, and Alan Shearer were part of the event. Zidane’s team won the match by a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw.
Zidane was spotted at the 2013 charity match played at Old Trafford as part of the ‘Manchester United Legends’ vs ‘Real Madrid Legends’ reverse fixture. The proceeds of the match were given to ‘Manchester United Foundation.’
In 2015, Zidane and Ronaldo played in the annual ‘Match Against Poverty,’ the proceeds of which were given to the countries hit by Ebola epidemic.
At a charity event in 2018, Zidane played for France against an ‘All-Star’ side, which included sprinter Usain Bolt. France won the match 3-2.
Awards & Achievements
Zidane was honored with the ‘FIFA World Player of the Year’ award thrice in 1998, 2000, and 2003. He has also won ‘FIFA World Cup Final Man of the Match’ awards, ‘FIFA 100 Greatest Living Footballers’ award, and ‘FIFA World Cup Golden Ball.’ He was part of ‘FIFA World Cup All-Star Team’ and ‘FIFA World Cup Dream Team.’
Zidane won the ‘Ballon d'Or’ in 1998. He won the ‘European Player of the Year’ award four times in 1998, 2001, 2002, and 2003.
He is among the elite group of greats who have won both ‘FIFA World Player of the Year’ award and ‘Ballon d'Or’ award.
Zidane won the ‘French Player of the Year’ award twice in 1998 and 2002.
Personal Life & Legacy
Zidane met Véronique Fernández while playing for ‘Cannes’ in the 1988-89 season. Zidane and Fernández got married in 1994.
The couple has been blessed with four children, Enzo Alan Zidane Fernández, Luca Zinedine Zidane Fernández, Theo Fernández, and Elyaz Zidane Fernández. Luca and Theo are members of ‘Real Madrid Academy.’
He started playing football at the age of four. He got his first player’s license at the age of ten. He made his professional debut at the age of 17 and won the ‘World Cup’ at the age of 26. He went on to win the ‘European Championship’ when he was 28.
He joined the ‘Real Madrid’ club in 2001 for a then world record fee of 150 billion Italian lire. It was the highest ever amount paid to a footballer for being transferred.
He made a comeback after announcing his retirement to lead France in the 2006 ‘FIFA World Cup.’ It was a fairytale finish to a fantastic career as France reached the finals under his meticulous guidance. However, his team could not win the ‘World Cup’ due to his absence in the penalty shootout.
He scored his first ‘World Cup’ goal at the finals of the 1998 ‘FIFA World Cup’ against Brazil. In the match, he scored two identical goals, both headers, leading France to victory. His outstanding performance in the match gave him a national hero status.