Steven Gerrard has faced some of the finest players in the world during a career spanning 14 seasons but, says the Liverpool captain, no opponent was tougher than French legend Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane retired from football in 2006 following France's defeat in the final of the World Cup and, despite his ill-discipline that day, will be regarded as arguably the greatest midfielder of his generation.

The former Real Madrid maestro guided France to World Cup glory in 1998, also winning the Ballon d'Or that year, while he collected a Champions League winner's medal during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Gerrard faced Zidane in Lisbon while representing England in Euro 2004 and, speaking to GiveMeFootball, the 31-year-old said he will always remember the meeting as one of the toughest nights of his career.

"Probably Zinedine Zidane when I played for England against France," Gerrard told GMF when asked who his toughest opponent was.

"There were stages in the game when he stepped it up and was probably unplayable."

The respect between Gerrard and Zidane is mutual, however, with the latter claiming in 2009 that the Liverpool talisman deserved to be regarded as the best player in the game, above Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of [Lionel] Messi and Ronaldo but, yes, I think he just might be," Zidane explained.

"If you don't have a player like Steven Gerrard, who is the engine room, it can affect the whole team."

He added: "He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief.

"You can't learn that – players like him are just born with that presence."

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