Zinedine Zidane was born on 23 June 1972 in La Castellane, Marseille, France to Algerian Kabyle immigrant parents Smaïl and Malika. He was the youngest of five siblings.
His father Smaïl was a warehouseman and nightwatchman at a department store, often working extra hours to support the family. His mother Malika was a housewife. The family lived in a crowded apartment in the Marseille neighborhood of La Castellane, known for its high crime rate.
Despite the family’s financial difficulties, Zidane’s parents encouraged their children’s passion for sports. Zidane started playing soccer at the age of five, joining his first soccer club at the age of ten. His athletic talent was evident from a young age.
Early Soccer Influences
Growing up in Marseille, Zidane idolized Olympique de Marseille players like Jean-Pierre Papin. He was also inspired by Diego Maradona’s performance at the 1986 World Cup.
At the age of 14, Zidane got to attend a training session at Camp des Loges, the French national team’s training ground, where his role model Michel Platini gave him an autographed photo. This experience left an indelible mark on the young Zidane.
Overcoming Adversity through Soccer
Soccer provided an escape for Zidane from the poverty and crime surrounding him in La Castellane. The sport kept him away from trouble with drugs, crime or extremism that plagued many disenfranchised immigrant youths of his generation. His parents were adamant that he focus on soccer and not hang out aimlessly on the streets after school.
Early Club Career
Zidane’s talent did not go unnoticed, and at the age of 14, he was recruited to the junior team of AS Cannes in northern France. He subsequently moved to Cannes to pursue his professional football career. His skills stood out even among players 2-3 years older.
In 1989, Zidane signed his first professional contract with Cannes. He made his professional debut for the club at age 17 in a 2-1 win over Nantes in Ligue 1 on 18 February 1989. Zidane went on to make 28 appearances and score his first goal that season, showing glimpses of the brilliant playmaker he was to become.
After 3.5 seasons with Cannes, Zidane was transferred to Girondins de Bordeaux in 1992 for a fee of €260,000. Establishing himself as a creative attacking midfielder, Zidane helped lead Bordeaux to the 1995 Intertoto Cup. His vision, technique and control attracted attention from Europe’s top clubs. He made 139 appearances for Bordeaux, scoring 10 goals.
Breakout with Juventus (1996–2001)
Zidane’s skills were noted by Juventus manager Marcelo Lippi, and the Italian club paid a world record fee of $3.2 million to acquire him in 1996.
Zidane proved his worth by helping Juventus win the 1996-97 Serie A and reach the Champions League final that season. His combination of elegance, ball control and playmaking abilities made him an instant star in Italy.
Continuous Success with Juventus
Over his 5 seasons with Juventus, Zidane won two Serie A titles, an Italian Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, and the UEFA Intertoto Cup. In 2001, he was named FIFA World Player of the Year.
His 66 goals and 56 assists in over 200 appearances made him a Juventus legend. More importantly, Zidane’s success in Italy’s competitive league cemented his place among the all-time greats.
Triumph with French National Team
Zidane made his international debut for France in 1994 and was a member of the team that reached the Euro 1996 semifinals. His greatest glory came at the 1998 World Cup which France hosted.
Zidane scored 2 goals and assisted 1 in the final against Brazil to lead France to a historic 3-0 win and the nation’s first World Cup. His brilliance earned him the Golden Ball for player of the tournament.
|1998 World Cup
|2002 World Cup
|2006 World Cup
Euro 2000 Champion
At Euro 2000, Zidane continued to shine. He scored a memorable extra-time last minute free kick against Spain in the quarterfinal and a golden goal penalty winner in the semifinal against Portugal. He finished with 3 goals and was named player of the tournament as France lifted the European Championship trophy.
2006 World Cup Final Controversy
The 2006 World Cup final would be the finale of Zidane’s illustrious career. With the score tied 1-1 against Italy, Zidane was infamously sent off in extra time after headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi.
France ultimately lost on penalties in Zidane’s last match for Les Bleus. The shocking headbutt became one of the most infamous moments in World Cup history, marring Zidane’s legacy to some extent.
Post-Retirement and Coaching Career
Briefly coming out of retirement, Zidane returned to play for Real Madrid in the 2009-10 season from ages 37-38. He helped the club reach the Champions League semifinal, where they lost to eventual champions Inter Milan. After just one season back, Zidane retired again with no regrets at age 38.
Transition to Coaching with Real Madrid Castilla
Zidane remained with Real Madrid as an advisor before taking over as coach of Real Madrid Castilla, the club’s B team, in 2014. Coaching Castilla for 18 months proved a valuable learning experience for the French legend.
Unprecedented Success as Real Madrid Manager
In January 2016, Zidane was named manager of Real Madrid’s first team on a 2.5 year deal. This began an unprecedented run of success including a La Liga title and 2 consecutive Champions League titles in just 2.5 seasons.
Zidane became the first coach to win the Champions League 3 years in a row, stamped his authority, and earned his place among the greatest managers ever.
Brief Return and Departure as Real Madrid Coach
Zidane shocked the world by resigning as Real Madrid coach after their 2018 Champions League win.
But he returned to rescue the club’s flailing season in March 2019 before resigning again in May 2021 after a trophyless season. Zidane departed as Madrid’s most successful coach of all time.
Playing Style and Legacy
Zidane was an unconventional playmaker known for his elegance, ball control, vision and technique. His signature moves like the Marseille Roulette, where he spun with the ball seemingly attached to his feet, highlighted his agility and skill.
Zidane orchestrated attacks and unlocked defenses with his precise passing, ability to dictate tempo, and exceptional spatial awareness – all done with flair and grace.
Iconic Bald Head and Poster Boy Looks
With his bald head since his early 20s and poster boy looks, Zidane became an instantly recognizable global icon.
His name adorns Adidas boots to this day. Louis Vuitton commissioned posters featuring Zidane by top artists, reflecting his stature as the face of soccer elegance and fashion.
Zidane was a temperamental genius – capable of mood swings, moments of madness, and rare flashes of violence like his infamous headbutt. While these flaws marred his legacy, they were a counterpoint to his usually serene demeanor and velvet touch on the field. Overall, his extraordinary talent and achievements far outweigh his volatility.
One of Football’s All-Time Greats
Ranking among the greatest playmakers and midfielders to grace the game, Zidane was voted FIFA’s best player of the 20th century. Pelé called him “the greatest player of all time”. His vision, technique and accomplishments put Zidane in the pantheon of all-time greats like Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff and Pelé himself.
Zinedine Zidane is one of the most gifted players to ever grace the soccer field. His Algerian immigrant roots and upbringing in a Marseille housing project make his trajectory to global stardom all the more remarkable.
Zidane overcame poverty, discrimination and violence through his singular focus and talent for soccer from a very young age. His vision, technique and flair made him a Juventus and Real Madrid legend, while his magic moments led France to their first World Cup and Euro triumph.
The poster boy of soccer elegance with his iconic bald head, Zidane became a cultural icon that transcended soccer. While his volatile temperament could mar his genius, his extraordinary talents and achievements ensure his place among the greatest to play the beautiful game. Beyond his mastery as a player, Zidane also showed his managerial prowess by guiding Real Madrid to unmatched Champions League success.
The twinkling feet, velvet touch, and dazzling skill of Zinedine Zidane captivated a generation and made an indelible mark on soccer’s history. He remains an inspiration for present and future talents coming from humble origins. Zidane’s story and legacy serve as a reminder of soccer’s power to unite and bring joy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What was Zidane’s most memorable match?
Zidane’s most memorable match was the 1998 World Cup final, where his two headed goals and dominant performance against Brazil led France to a 3-0 victory and the nation’s first World Cup trophy. Zidane was named player of the tournament.
Why did Zidane headbutt Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final?
The exact reason is unclear, but it was allegedly in response to provocative insults made by Marco Materazzi about Zidane’s sister. Zidane snapped and headbutted Materazzi in the chest in extra time of the 1-1 match, leading to his being sent off.
How many Champions League titles did Zidane win as manager?
Zidane won an unprecedented three consecutive Champions League titles as manager of Real Madrid between 2016-2018, cementing his status as one of the greatest coaches in soccer history.
What individual awards and honors did Zidane win?
Zidane won the Ballon d’Or in 1998, the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000, and 2003, and the World Soccer Player of the Year in 1998, 2000, and 2001. He was named Ligue 1 Player of the Year in 1996, and Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2001.
What made Zidane such an exceptional player?
Zidane’s vision, technique, ball control, skills, and elegance made him exceptional. His trademark moves like the Marseille Roulette highlighted his agility and flair. As an attacker, he created chances and dictated tempo with his superb passing and spatial awareness.