For so many, the name Zinedine Zidane often evokes the image of the great Frenchman in the white of Real Madrid or in the blue of his nation but for a man so synonymous with the past and present of Los Blacos, he has a lot to thank his former love Juventus for.
When Zidane took his seat in the dugout for his second UEFA Champions League final as Real Madrid manager he looked to continue a trend he himself had been a part of Turin, the Old Lady’s long wait for a European Cup, a wait that had gone on since 1996.
For a club as great as Juve, it’s a shock to think they’ve gone 21 years and five losing finals since their last Champions League triumph over then defending champions Ajax, in that time they’ve seen great rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan win three European titles between them.
Even more shocking when you take into account that the Turin side held the world’s best midfielder in their ranks.
Zidane had impressed everyone in France and was one of the most sought after players in world football due to his technical ability to create space and a keen eye for goal, two bizarrely mixed deals prevented him joining Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United who were reportedly after him and so instead he left France for Italy and for the reigning European Champions.
Joining a midfield of future managers boasting Antonio Conte and Didier Deschamps, Zidane and Juve looked a match made in heaven, with the Frenchman slotting in behind Christian Vieri and Alessandro Del Piero and in his first season helped the club back to another UEFA Champions League Final as well as the Serie A title being named Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year.
Zinedine Zidane on Juventus: “I was 5 years there, a great club that helped me to develop and become a man, to grow as a person & a player.” pic.twitter.com/QFBuP4q9Em
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) May 26, 2017
However, his first European final was less than impressive, spending most of the game being tightly marked by Paul Lambert, arguably that season’s MVP in the Champions League, the Scotsman having been so useful in stifling Manchester United in the semi-finals as Dortmund would go onto win the final 3-1 and win the club’s only European Cup.
Undeterred he fired the Old Lady to a third straight Champions League final and another Scudetto but his future employers denied him his first European Cup, Real Madrid condemning Juventus to more final heartache, winning 1-0 in the final in Amsterdam.
Despite his failure to win the Champions League, Zidane’s stock had clearly rose in the previous two seasons and his heartbreak in both finals was erased with a Man of the Match performance in the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final, scoring two of France’s three goals to beat reigning world champions Brazil at the State de France for his country’s first ever World Cup.
He was instrumental for his country, in France’s World Cup triumph he was named in the All-Star team and although he missed out to future teammate Ronaldo for the Golden Ball, he was later named the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year winner in 1998 ahead of El Fenómeno and World Cup Golden Boot winner Davor Suker.
Games 48 Goals 11
🏆 Serie A World Cup
World Cup TOTY
Fifa World POTY pic.twitter.com/GRC2YkEhuR
— FutbolNerdMania (@futbolnerdmania) June 3, 2017
Other than the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999, the honours halted for Zidane in Turin, although they made the 1999 UEFA Champions League semi-finals, losing to a Roy Keane inspired Manchester United, they finished a lowly 7th in Serie A and although they recovered for consecutive 2nd place finishes in his last two seasons in Italy, they lacked progress in the Champions League.
After winning his second Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year award and a year on from being named FIFA World Player of the Year for a second time as France added UEFA Euro 2000 to their World Cup triumph two years earlier, the mercurial midfielder made a world record move of €77.5m to Real Madrid and to the team he is most synonymous with.
In his first season in Madrid he finally won his coveted UEFA Champions League, scoring arguably the greatest goal in any final, a volley from the edge of the box which won Madrid’s ninth European Cup at Hampden Park.
Zidane and the Galacticos would go on to more success, winning the La Liga title in 2003 as the midfielder continued to plead his case as one of the greatest midfielders of all time being named FIFA World Player of the Year for a third and final time in 2003. And driving France to another FIFA World Cup Final in 2006 where his career ended unceremoniously with a red card for head butting Marco Materazzi.
The Old Lady have boasted some of the greatest midfielders past and present from Michel Platini to Andrea Pirlo but there aren’t too many more majestic with the ball at their feet than Zizou, his career may be synonymous with Madrid whether a Champions League match winning player or coach but it was built in Turin.