Zinedine Zidane: The volatile artist and his big game dominance
Zinedine Zidane: The Volatile Artist and his big game dominance
The game of football has and will always be one for the fit and strong, those we prefer to call athletes. However, there have been a handful of artists who disguised as athletes, and have hence given us the right to describe the game as beautiful. In light of Dimitar Berbatov’s birthday on January 30, an inspiration to write about a dying breed of footballers who played the game with so much grace hit me; the likes of Johan Cryuff, Dennis Begkamp, Juan Roman Riquelme to mention just a few. Zinedine Yazid Zidane was one of such artists and probably the finest one of that breed, a crop of footballers whom I prefer to call “The Elegants”.
Zinedine Zidane: The Early years and journey to the top
Born on the 23rd of June, 1972 in Marseille, France, Zidane grew up in La Castellane, a suburb in Southern France notorious for it’s high crime and unemployment rate. He started to kick the ball at an early age by the time he was 14, he was spotted by AS Cannes scout and former player Jean Varraud who noticed his unique talent. “He’d go past one, two, three, five, six players – it was sublime. His feet spoke with the ball” Varraud said. Even then, his volatile nature meant he was prone to attacking at the slightest provocation and Varraud urged him to channel his anger towards his game. He yielded, and after three years at Cannes, he moved to Bordeaux in 1992 where he won the Ligue1 Young Player, and Player of the season in the 1993-1994 and 1995-1996 seasons respectively.
During his time in France, “Zizou” as he is fondly called honed his skills before moving to Juventus at the start of the 1996-1997 season. As good as he was, he still his doubters. Prior to his move to Juve, Newcastle United had a chance to sign him, but declined believing that he was not good enough for the English first division. Also, being of Algerian descent, rumours had it that the then Algerian coach believed he wasn’t fast enough to play for his team and although Zidane denied this latter claim, the precociously talented player still had a lot to prove.
In Italy, he was named Seria A Foreign Player of the Year in his first season and he finished third in the 1997 Ballon d’or voting behind Ronaldo De Lima and Predrag Mijatovic.
Zinedine Zidane: A big game player
Zidane’s big opportunity came in 1998, when his beloved France hosted the FIFA World Cup. Entering the competition as one of the best players in the World, big things were expected of him. However, in the second match against Saudi Arabia, he received a red card only to return in the Quarter Finals match against Italy. France defeated Italy on penalties before beating Croatia 2-1 to setup a mouth watering clash against favourites Brazil.
Despite failing to score enroute the finals, Zidane contributed immensely to his team’s play.
Most of the pre-final conversation centered around Ronaldo de Lima who suffered a convulsive fit before the match. Although many felt that the outcome of the final would have been different had Ronaldo been hundred percent, Zidane chose that platform to get his first goals of the tournament (two headers from cornerkicks). Emmanuel Petit rounded the mauling as France ran away 3-0 winners.
Zidane was awarded the man of the match and throughout his career he continued to dominate in big games.
His display in Euro 2000, is considered as one of the most dominating displays of an individual in any competition as was stated in UEFA’s website
“In Belgium and the Netherlands, Zidane dominated a major championship in a way no individual had managed since Diego Maradona in 1986. From the opening game against Denmark to the final against Italy, ‘Zizou’ shone brightly, casting a spell on his opponents with clever flicks, mesmerising stepovers, slaloming runs and masterful vision.”
Also, his left-footed volley for Madrid in the finals of the 2002 UEFA Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen is described as one of the best goals in Champions League history.
Zinedine Zidane: A big game with the good and ugly
Zidane came out of retirement to captain France in the 2006 World Cup. In the Quarter Finals match against Brazil, Zidane dominated the game, owned the midfield against a Brazilian team that had the likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka and Ronaldo. He beat the Brazilians in their own game with flicks and feints as France won the match 1-0 to eliminate the defending Champions.
France raced through to the final of this competition, where they faced Italy and it was in this big game that Zidane displayed his full image, the good and ugly. He put France ahead with a panenka penalty and impressed during the match. In the 110th minute, Zizou created the first image in people’s mind whenever the name “Zinedine Zidane” is mentioned by headbutting Marco Materazzi. He was sent off, and though it was later discovered that he was provoked becuase Materazzi insulted his sister, he chose the grandest of stages once again.
Like Picasso with his pencil, Zinedine Zidane created beauty with the ball at his feet, and even his tendency to react to provocation did little in undermining the genius of a true magician who conquered France, Italy, Spain and the World.
“He dominates the ball, he is a walking spectacle and he plays as if he had silk gloves on each foot. He makes it worthwhile going to the stadium – he’s one of the best I have ever seen.”
—Alfredo Di Stéfano on Zidane
Johan Cruyff before him was a football revolutionist, one of the best footballers ever, and a member of the Total Football School, Bergkamp and Riquelme who played at about the same time as him had their own success, with the former’s goal for Arsenal vs Newcastle in 2002 still considered as the best goal of the Premier League era, and Dimitar Berbatov after him gave us a glimpse of the light from a fading generation, but Zidane did it, and won it all both individually and collectively.
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