Talking the Beautiful Game

Zinedine Zidane – Moments of Artistry

Our new “The Artists” collection will be launched on 15th February celebrating the exceptional skill and contribution of some of the greatest exponents of the beautiful game. There are 10 players honoured in this initial range and over the next few days our blogs will share some magical moments of artistry from each one of them. 

Today we feature Zidane.

1 – v Brazil, World Cup final, July 1998

Zinedine Zidane is such a beautiful player, and so it is a fine juxtaposition that he scored both his goals against Brazil in the World Cup final with his head, directly from corners. In fact the goals simply looked like reverse angles of one another.

The final, held in the new Stade de France, began with mystery as Ronaldo’s name was left off the original team sheet, only to be put back on it prior to kick off. Brazil, champions in 1994, faced France who had never lifted the World Cup trophy.

But it was the French who triumphed and in some style. 27 minutes in Emmanuel Petit swung in a corner from the right hand side, and Zidane met it with a thumping header at the near post. 18 minutes later he did exactly the same with a corner coming from the left, beating Claudio Taffarel at his near post once more. 

In the second half Marcel Desailly was sent off for a second bookable offence, but it had little effect as Petit sealed the game with a goal in stoppage time. Zidane stood up on the biggest stage of all, and while his goals were simple enough, their beauty was never in question.

Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6Q2Tyw_PXM

2 – v Bayer Leverkusen, Champions League final, May 2002 

I found Real Madrid’s official Youtube account and watched their video of Zidane’s volleyed winner. They’ve paired it with Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ and it’s wonderfully iconic. Real Madrid have no sponsor on their shirt, and Zidane still has that monk-like hair. It’s a work of art in a moment really.

Raul had broken the deadlock after just 9 minutes only for Leverkusen’s Lucio to equalise five minutes later. It was obviously going to be left to a moment of genius.

With the first half almost up, Roberto Carlos was played down the left hand side only to find the right back sticking to him. With the ball bouncing the Brazilian full back seemed to have little on, so opted to hook the ball high into the air. 

Zidane, on the edge of the box, was under little pressure from the backline, who were occupied by two Real Madrid forwards. As the ball dropped from the heavens, the Frenchman wound up and released a left-footed strike laden with technique. Hans Jorg-Butt in goal was not all that far away from the ball, but could only flash his hand towards it once it was past him; perhaps the finest Champions League goal of all time.

Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QryFUtRtUiM

3 – v Brazil, World Cup quarter finals, July 2006

‘The finest player that I’ve ever seen in the modern era’. Clive Tyldesley, 2006.

Zizou didn’t score here; he did make an assist for Thierry Henry’s volleyed winner, but the real story was the mercurial performance of one of France’s greatest.

Zidane, now bald and playing against Roberto Carlos rather than with him, had the game of his life. Every touch was as though it were being played in his back garden; A ‘Maradona spin’ here, a stepover there; running past players with the ease of a man on top of the world.

The memorable image is that of Zizou lifting the ball over Ronaldo and heading it on to one of his team mates. Nothing was showboating, nothing was unnecessary. Here was a man using every bit of skill he had to dictate the tempo on one of the biggest stages. ‘He’s never in a hurry. Never rushed’ exclaimed David Pleat. 

The cross to Henry was good, and obviously decisive, but the spectacle was the ease with which Zidane played. He looked so relaxed, like he was enjoying every moment. Goodness knows we did.

Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBge_W2GsBk

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