Football

Zinedine Zidane: The last great of a dying breed?

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July 12, 1998. The Stade de France was a sea of blue, white and red flags as the 75,000 supporters inside the stadium sat on the edge of their seats awaiting the biggest game in the football calendar, the World Cup final.

Host nation France had defied the odds to reach this illustrious stage and were pitted against a star studded Brazilian team which included the likes of Roberto Carlos and Cafu.

Much of the pre-match talk surrounded the then FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldo who was initially absent from Brazil's team sheet and then mysteriously reappeared in the starting line up a mere 72 minutes before kick off time.

Conspiracy theorists have yet to agree on what really happened to the brilliant forward, however, that night in Saint Denis will forever be remembered as the night a 26-year-old midfielder announced his status as a truly world class player on the biggest stage of them all.

Zinedine Zidane was born in the suburbs of the French Riviera, Zidane nurtured his footballing skills by playing as a young boy on the streets of Marseille. It wasn't long before the talented son of Algerian immigrants was spotted by a Cannes scout at the tender age of 14 and invited to join the French club.

"Zizou" as he fondly became to be known by football fanatics, played for Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid during his decorated career but it was his performances in the blue French shirt on the world stage which elevated him to stardom. 

Ironically, for a man with a godlike first touch, it was two moments of magic with his head which won the 1998 World Cup for France and made him a poster boy not only in Paris but around the world.

The ease at which Brazil were brushed aside by a dominant French side was to signal the start of a two year unbeaten period for 'Les Bleus' which also included a golden goal victory in the final at Euro 2000, another tournament in which Frances number 10 dictated proceedings.

Zizou made the playmaker role his own, he defined the position. Playing just off the striker or drifting in from the left during his time at Madrid, he would mesmerise opposition defences with his close control and precision passing.

What stood out from watching Zidane was his ability to make the incredible seem effortless, he oozed confidence, and the ball would often seem under his spell.

He single handedly controlled matches but he wasn't one to shy away from the physical aspect of the game either, as shown by his not so innocent disciplinary issues.

However, his technique and masterful vision outweighed any disciplinary problems he had and he is correctly regarded as one of the, if not the best player ever. 

Even approaching the end of his career at the 2006 World Cup, Brazil were to again be on the receiving end of another Zidane masterclass as the Frenchman defied his age to produce an outstanding performance which included a pin point free kick to Thierry Henry who volleyed in the winner.

The modern day number 10s such as Lionel Messi, are more dribblers than playmakers and the position Zizou made his own seems to be disappearing as current midfielders are encouraged to be the complete package rather than just concentrating on dictating the play with skill and vision.

The football world however, should not forget the moments of brilliance Zidane displayed on the pitch, culminating in one of the greatest goals in the history of football, that left footed volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final.

 

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Zinedine Zidane

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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