One of soccer’s all-time greats, Zinedine Zidane led France to victory at the 1998 World Cup, but was thrown out of the ’06 Cup final for striking an opponent.
Who Is Zinedine Zidane?
Zinedine Zidane was born on June 23, 1972, in Marseille, France. A three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Zidane led France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and starred for clubs in France, Italy and Spain. His career ended in shocking fashion when he was expelled from the 2006 World Cup final for headbutting an opponent, though he remains regarded as one of the sport’s all-time greats. Zidane went on to a highly successful stint as manager of Real Madrid from 2016 to ’18, winning three consecutive Champions League titles.
Zinedine Yazid Zidane was born on June 23, 1972, in Marseille, France. The son of Algerian immigrants, Zidane learned to play soccer in the streets of La Castellane, a rough section of Marseille. After starring for local youth clubs, 14-year-old Zidane was discovered at a French Football Federation training camp by AS Cannes recruiter Jean Varraud, and spent the next three years honing his skills in Cannes’ youth division.
Zidane made his first professional appearance for Cannes at 17, scoring a goal in his debut. He transferred to Bordeaux in 1992, and in ensuing years the attacking midfielder earned renown for his sterling all-around play. Prone to the occasional flash of temper, Zidane otherwise was the embodiment of control with the ball at his feet, seemingly knowing when to maneuver through the defense, find a teammate with a pinpoint pass or rocket a shot at the goal.
Zidane transferred to Juventus F.C. in Italy’s prestigious Series A League in 1996. The move brought a marked increase in visibility and expectations, but Zidane proved he was up to the challenge by steering Juventus to an Italian Super Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and a pair of Series A titles over the next two seasons.
At his peak when France hosted the 1998 World Cup, Zidane spearheaded Les Bleus’ march through the tournament with his crisp passing and dribbling, and then scored twice as France shut down Brazil in the final, 3-0, to become a national hero. Two years later, Zidane again was the linchpin of the French team’s run to international glory, which culminated with a 2-1 win over Italy for the European Championship.
In 2001, Zidane signed with Spanish club Real Madrid for a world-record transfer fee of more than $66 million. The investment paid immediate dividends, as the French import helped Real Madrid win the coveted UEFA Champions League title in his first year and La Liga the following season.
Zidane had indicated he would retire after the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and it appeared his career was heading for a storybook finish when France advanced to the final against Italy. Instead, it ended in shocking fashion when, enraged by opponent Marco Materazzi’s comments to him in extra time, he slammed his head into the Italian player’s chest. Zidane was thrown out of the game, and France subsequently lost on penalty kicks.
Real Madrid Front Office and Manager
Zidane joined Real Madrid’s front office as an adviser and was named the club’s sporting director in 2011. The following year, it was announced the French soccer legend would begin coaching at Real Madrid’s youth academy, and in 2014 he was named coach of the club’s B team.
In January 2016, Zidane took over as manager of Real Madrid’s first team. While some doubted how he would fare in front of a demanding owner and fan base, the icon soon silenced the critics with his overwhelming success, becoming the first manager to win two and then three consecutive Champions League titles. He also led Real Madrid to two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA World Club Cups, one Spanish title and one Spanish Super Cup, before announcing he was stepping down from the post in May 2018.
In 2004, Zidane was named best European soccer player of the past 50 years by the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll and was included in the FIFA 100, Pelé’s list of the 125 greatest living players. He remains one of a handful of greats to win the FIFA World Player of the Year/Ballon d’Or award three times.
Appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in March 2001, Zidane annually captains a team of soccer stars against a side led by fellow retired idol and U.N. Ambassador Ronaldo in a match for charity. In 2010, he also served as a high-profile ambassador of Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.