Football Genius: Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane  (born 23 June 1972) is a retired French footballer. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Zidane was a leading figure of a generation  of French players that won the 1998 World Cup  and 2000 European Championship. After a brief international retirement, he returned to the national team in 2005 and captained France to the 2006 World Cup Final where he won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player. At club level Zidane won the La Liga and the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid, two Serie A league championships with Juventus, an Intercontinental Cup, and a UEFA Super Cup each with both aforementioned sides. He is, alongside Brazilian striker Ronaldo, the only three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner; he also won the Ballon d’Or  in 1998. He retired from professional football after the 2006 World Cup. He currently holds the post of Real Madrid Director of Football, filling the spot previously held by Jorge Valdano.
Zidane is of Kabyle  Berber descent. His parents, Smaïl and Malika, emigrated to Paris from the village ofAguemone  in the Berber-speaking region of Kabylia in eastern Algeria, in 1953 before the start of the Algerian War. The family, which had settled in the city’s tough northern districts of Barbès and Saint-Denis, found little work in the region. So in the mid-1960s, they moved to the northern Marseille suburb of La Castellane where, on 23 June 1972, Zidane was born as the youngest of five siblings. Zidane’s father Smaïl worked as a warehouseman at a department store, often on the night shift, while his mother was a housewife. The family lived in so small a tower-block apartment in the housing complex that he, his parents, three brothers and one sister had to sit down to eat in shifts. Yet, due to his father’s steady job, the family lived a reasonably comfortable life by the standards of the neighbourhood, which was notorious throughout Marseille for its high crime and unemployment rates.
At the age of ten, Zidane got his first player’s license after joining the junior team of a local club from La Castellane by the name of US Saint-Henri. After spending a year and a half at US Saint-Henri, Zidane joined SO Septèmes Valons when the Septèmes coach Robert Centenero convinced the club’s Director to get Zidane. It was at La Castellane that Zidane had his earliest introduction to football, joining in at the age of five, in football games that the neighbourhood’s children played on the Place Tartane, an 80-by-12-yard plaza that served as the main square of the housing complex. In July 2011, Zidane named Blaž Slišković, Enzo Francescoli and Jean-Pierre Papin  as his idols while growing up
Zidane went to Cannes for a six-week stay, but ended up remaining at the club for four years to play at the professional level. Having left his family at the age of fourteen to join Cannes, the youngster was invited by Cannes director Jean-Claude Elineau, to leave the dormitory he shared with 20 other trainees and to come and stay with him and his family. Zidane later said that it was in living with the Elineaus that he found equilibrium.  Zidane stayed with Septèmes till the  of fourteen, at which time he was selected to attend a three-day training camp at the CREPS (Regional Centre for Sports and Physical Education) in Aix-en-Provence, one of several such footballing institutes run by the French Football Federation. It was here that Zidane was spotted by AS Cannes scout Jean Varraud who recommended him to the training center director of the club.
Zidane made his professional debut with Cannes on 18 May 1989 at the age of seventeen in a Ligue 1  match against Nantes. He scored his first goal for the club on 8 February 1991 also against Nantes in a 2–1 win. After the match during a party for all the Cannes players, Zidane was gifted a car by Cannes chairman Alain Pedretti, who had promised him one the day he scored his first goal for the club. In his first full season with Cannes, the club secured its first ever European football berth by qualifying for the UEFA Cup  after finishing 4th in the league. This remains the club’s highest finish in the top flight since getting relegated for the first time from the first division in the 1948–49 season. Zidane was transferred to Girondins de Bordeaux  in the 1992–93 season, winning the 1995 Intertoto Cup  and finishing runner-up in the 1995–96 UEFA Cup in four years with the club. He played a set of midfield combinations with Bixente Lizarazu and Christophe Dugarry, which would become the trademark of both Bordeaux and the 1998 French national team. In 1995, Blackburn Rovers  coach Ray Harford  had expressed interest in signing both Zidane and Dugarry, to which team ownerJack Walker  reportedly replied, ”Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood” In 1996, Zidane moved to UEFA Champions League winners Juventus  for a fee of £3.2 million and won the 1996–97 Serie A  and the 1996 Intercontinental Cup,  but lost the 1997 UEFA Champions League Final 3–1 to Borussia Dortmund. The following season, Zidane netted 7 goals in 32 matches in the league to help Juventus win the 1997–98 Serie A  and thus retain the Scudetto. In Europe, Juventus made their third consecutive UEFA Champions League Final appearance, but lost the game 1–0 to Real Madrid, a club Zidane would later join. Juventus finished second in the 2000–01 Serie A, but were eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League after Zidane was banned for head-butting Hamburger SV  player Jochen Kientz. However Zidane was named Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year for the second time.
While Zidane’s final season of club football ended trophyless, he enjoyed success on a personal note recording the maiden hat-trick of his career, scoring thrice against Sevilla FC in a 4–2 win in January 2006. He ended the season for Real Madrid as their second highest goal scorer and assists provider behind team-mates Ronaldo  and Beckham respectively, with 9 goals and 10 assists in 28 games. On 7 May 2006, Zidane, who had announced his plans to retire after the 2006 World Cup, played his last home match and scored in a 3–3 draw with Villarreal CF. The squad wore commemorative shirts with ZIDANE 2001–2006 below the club logo. In 2001, Zidane joined Real Madrid for a then world record fee  of 150 billion Italian lire  (about €75 million) and signed a four-year contract. He scored a 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 completing his personal quadruple. The next season, Zidane helped Real Madrid to win the 2002–03 La Liga and was named the FIFA World Player of the Year for the third time. In 2004, fans voted him as the best European footballer of the previous 50 years in UEFA’s fiftieth-anniversaryGolden Jubilee Poll.
Both France and Algeria consider Zidane a citizen, but he was ineligible to play for the Algerian national team. There was a rumour that coach Abdelhamid Kermali denied Zidane a position for the Algerian squad because he felt the young midfielder was not fast enough. However, Zidane dismissed the rumour in a 2005 interview, saying that he would have been ineligible to play for Algeria because he had already played for France.  He earned his first cap with France as a substitute in a friendly against the Czech Republic  on 17 August 1994, which ended in a 2–2 draw after Zidane scored twice to help France erase a 2–0 deficit. After Éric Cantona was handed a year-long suspension in January 1995 for assaulting a fan, Zidane took over the playmaker position. France were eliminated in the  Euro 96 semi-finals in a penalty shootout  by the Czech Republic after the match ended 0–0 in extra time.
Zidane and France went on to play against defending champions and favourites Brazil at the Stade de France  in the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final. France dominated Brazil from the kick-off, with Zidane scoring two identical goals, both headers from corner kicks taken by Emmanuel Petit and Youri Djorkaeff. Courtesy of Zidane’s brace, France went into the break 2–0 up at half-time with one hand already on the World Cup trophy. Emmanuel Petit added a third goal deep in stoppage time to seal the 3–0 win and France’s first ever World Cup. Zidane became an instant national hero and his image was projected onto the Arc de Triomphe.
Two years later France won Euro 2000, becoming the first team to hold both the World Cup and the European Championship since West Germany in 1974. Zidane finished with two goals, a memorable free kick against Spain in the quarter final and the golden goal in the semi final against Portugal, and was named player of the tournament by UEFA. The 1998 FIFA World Cup was the first World Cup that Zidane participated in. It was held in his home country France. The French team won all three games in the group stage but Zidane was sent off  in the second match against Saudi Arabia for a stamp on Fuad Anwar, becoming the first French player to receive a red card in a World Cup finals. Without their suspended playmaker France proceeded to win 1–0 in the last sixteen game against Paraguay  and, on his return to the side, defeated Italy  4–3 on penalties after a goalless draw in the quarter finals. France then defeated Croatia  2–1 in the semi final. Zidane played a major role in the team’s accomplishment, though he had yet to score a goal at the World Cup.
As reigning world and European champions, France entered the 2002 World Cup as favourites but a thigh injury prevented Zidane from playing in France’s first two matches and without their talisman the French team failed to score in either match. He was rushed back prematurely for the third game despite not being fully fit, but could not prevent France from being ignominiously eliminated in the group stage without scoring a single goal; the worst performance by a defending champion in the history of the competition.  At Euro 2004, France topped their group with wins over England and Switzerland, before being knocked out in the quarter finals by eventual champions Greece  in a surprise 1-0 loss. In the opening match against England, Zidane scored a free kick and penalty in stoppage time to turn defeat into a 2–1 victory for France. After France’s elimination Zidane announced his retirement from international football.