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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Zidane swansong

By John Sinnott

Zidane guided France to the World Cup title in 1998
France midfielder Zinedine Zidane is close to bringing down the curtain on a glittering career.

The Real Madrid star will retire from football after the World Cup.

Zidane made his debut for Cannes at 18 in May 1989 and when he scored his first professional goal he was given a car by club president Alain Pedretti.

He bows out a multi-millionaire, but given his sublime contribution to the game it is the public that will be the poorer after his retirement.

Zidane was key to France's World Cup victory in 1998 and their Euro 2000 triumph two years later.

His volley for Real Madrid in the 2002 European Cup final against Bayer Leverkusen will also live long in the memory.

BBC Sport talks to Tottenham sporting director and fellow Frenchman Damien Comolli about Zidane, both as the player and the man.


I will never forget when I saw Zidane playing for Cannes as an 18-year-old against Monaco in one of his first professional games.

He scored the most unbelievable volley I've ever seen, hitting the ball into the corner from a cross.

For some reason the goal was disallowed, for what reason I still don't know. It is an image in my mind and I will never forget it.

From Cannes Zidane moved to Bordeaux, helping the Girondins reach the Uefa Cup final in 1996 after they had been Intertoto Cup qualifiers.

On route to the final Bordeaux beat AC Milan 3-0 at home in the quarter-finals and Zidane was just sensational.

I remember Zidane's debut for France - against the Czech Republic at Bordeaux - because a friend of mine Lilian Thuram, also made his first appearance for Les Bleus in that game.

Obviously there was the 1998 World Cup final and I was lucky enough to attend and to be in the audience. That was amazing - a fantastic souvenir for France.


The quality of Zidane's touch is absolutely amazing. His co-ordination and body control is equally superb.

People say he is not the quickest player and they are probably right to say that.

But on the ball Zidane is very quick and his game is very difficult to read because he does such unexpected things.

For me the sign of a great player is that they surprise you when you watch them play and Zidane does that all the time.

Another sign of a great player is that when they are on the ball they have more time than anybody else and that is so true of Zidane.


There is a debate in France as to who is the best ever French player - Michel Platini or Zidane.

When I was growing up Platini was my idol, but for me Zidane is the best ever French player.

I say that because he has won more trophies than Platini at international level - Zidane had that consistency.

Zidane is one of the best technical players I have ever seen along with Maradona.

I think he is on a par with Maradona, though I'm biased. An Argentine would say Maradona is above Zidane.


France could not have won the World Cup final without Zidane.

I recently read an interview with Marcel Desailly where he said before the final the most experienced players went to talk to Zidane to tell him that he had to deliver.

And he did by scoring two goals - not many people do that in a World Cup final.

Zidane was even better in Euro 2000. I think he had even more of an impact in that tournament than he did in the World Cup.

He was not as tired as he had been when he arrived at the 1998 World Cup and he was really on top of his game.

You could see psychologically, mentally and morally he had more impact on the French squad than he had had in 1998.


In France after 1998 there was a massive arrival of young players and Zidane played a key role in that.

You ask any kid who their favourite player was and 70% would say Zidane and 30% Thierry Henry.

Zidane was also important as he became a symbol of success of the French youth academies.

Before Zidane there had been a sense that the academies produced physically strong players, that were very disciplined, but had no talent and that the talent had been left in the inner cities.

Zidane was the man that proved that the academies could produce fantastic players.


I've met Zidane a couple of times and he has this incredible charisma.

When he comes into a room, people look at him, not because he is Zidane, but because he has this aura about him and that is why he is so popular with kids.

When I was a kid Platini was my idol. The memories - I will never forget those memories. To see a player start with Cannes and then to go on and become the best player in the world is incredible.

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