//Zinedine Zidane was a ‘dancer’ and an ‘artist’ on the pitch, idolised by Pogba, Hazard, Ronaldinho and named a

Zinedine Zidane was a ‘dancer’ and an ‘artist’ on the pitch, idolised by Pogba, Hazard, Ronaldinho and named a

Considering you’ve probably got a bit of time of your hands, go and find a clip of Zinedine Zidane’s performance against Brazil at the 2006 World Cup.

Rarely have such a vast array of legends been on the pitch at the same time outside the world of testimonials and Soccer Aid.

Nobody could get near Zidane

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Nobody could get near Zidane

Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira – the list goes on.

But they were all made to look like mere mortals by Zidane, who put in one of the most effortlessly elegant displays of the modern era.

When describing the iconic French midfielder, people often rely on parallels outside of football to capture his transcendent brilliance.

The way he glided across the pitch was more akin to a dancer than a footballer and his first touch felt like an artist’s perfect flick of a paintbrush.

You’ll struggle to find a more common idol for the game’s current stars, because Zidane was the greatest player in the world when they were all growing up.

Zidane has forged a pretty successful managerial career as well

AFP

Zidane has forged a pretty successful managerial career as well

The idolisation of Zidane the player adds to his lure as a manager, with Eden Hazard citing his affection for the Frenchman on numerous occasions before leaving Chelsea to join Real Madrid.

Meanwhile, Paul Pogba’s love of Zidane has also been a driving force behind transfer rumours linking him with a move from Manchester United to the Bernabeu.

So while we focus more on his managerial qualities these days, it’s worth remembering that the iconic Juventus, Real Madrid and France midfielder was also a pretty big deal.

To prove it, here’s what some of football’s most important figures said about him…


David Beckham

Forget Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Pele.

Becks played alongside Zizou at Madrid and, for him, there has never been a better footballer.

“To train with Zinedine Zidane for three years was a dream. For me, he is the greatest player of all time.”

Beckham got to play with Zidane in his prime

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Beckham got to play with Zidane in his prime

Ronaldo

Name a more iconic duo than the original Ronaldo and Zidane. We’ll wait.

The legendary striker played alongside the greatest players of the modern era with Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid and Brazil.

But Zidane was his greatest partner in crime.

“He’s the best player with whom I have ever played with. We had a lot of fun on the pitch.”

The connection between Zidane and Ronaldo was magical

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The connection between Zidane and Ronaldo was magical

Paul Scholes

The Manchester United legend shares a reciprocated love with the Frenchman.

Zidane once described Scholes as the best midfielder of his generation – and the Englishman thinks equally highly of his former rival.

“One of the best two or three footballers I have ever seen was Zinedine Zidane.

“To see Zidane in action was to witness poetry in motion. The skills, the vision, the goals… he was a sublime performer. When he was at his peak, winning the World Cup, the Champions League and all the rest, he was unquestionably the finest player on the planet.”

Scholes and Zidane are both full of praise for each other

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Scholes and Zidane are both full of praise for each other

Frank Lampard

From one great England midfielder to another, everyone was unanimous in their appreciation of Zidane.

Lampard, Chelsea’s leading goalscorer and current manager, saw the Frenchman as a genius.

“I think he’s the player that really has been my favourite for the last few years. Playing against him you realise the man is a real genius as a footballer.”


Marcel Desailly

Desailly has more reason to be thankful for his compatriot’s brilliance than most.

Two Zidane headers in the 1998 World Cup final against Brazil helped France on their way to a 3-0 victory, despite Desailly’s red card for a reckless challenge.

“A true artist. What he could do with the ball was incredible.

“Only Maradona could do the same. Zizou was also a player capable of rising to the occasion at important moments, and deciding games.

“Remember those two goals in the final against Brazil in 1998? And that fantastic goal in the final of Champions League for Real against Bayer Leverkusen.

“It was a pity the way he finished his career, but nothing can erase what he did for football.”

Zidane scored twice in the 1998 World Cup final

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Zidane scored twice in the 1998 World Cup final

Franco Baresi

Greatness recognises greatness. While Lampard went for ‘genius’ and Desailly opted for ‘artist’, the legendary Italian defender considered Zidane more of a ‘dancer’ on the pitch.

“He was as elegant as a dancer – he even used the soles of his boots efficiently.

“Everything was easy for him; he made such movements that if I tried to copy them I would break my legs.”

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Ronaldinho

If you were to read the things everyone said about Ronaldinho, they would all use the same sort of superlatives.

The Brazilian replaced Zizou as the game’s top player around 2005 – but his admiration for the Frenchman was unrelenting.

“Zidane is one of the best footballers of all time, one of my idols. He had such elegance and grace, a wonderful touch and superb vision.”

Ronaldinho and Zidane shared the stage at the same time

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Ronaldinho and Zidane shared the stage at the same time

Mesut Ozil

There’s a certain gracefulness to Ozil’s play which can be traced back to watching Zidane.

And the Arsenal midfielder admits the Frenchman had a massive influence on the way he plays.

“My idol was Zinedine Zidane. He was the most perfect player. His technique, shooting and headers, his ability to read games and boss them was fantastic.

“I always admired Zidane. He didn’t do tricks for the sake of it. He never wanted to show off. He just played a clever game. He’s the player who decides games. I watched his technique and tried to do that in my game, and a lot of times it worked.”

Zidane was a coach at Real Madrid during Ozil’s time at the club

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Zidane was a coach at Real Madrid during Ozil’s time at the club

Paul Pogba

Pogba is probably the closest thing France have had to Zidane since the Frenchman’s retirement.

Even his biggest fans at Man United would struggle to deny the impact Zidane could potentially have on Pogba’s career if he joined Madrid.

“I admire him a lot. When I was younger, I was watching his videos, the way he was playing. I love big players, but there are some players who have something extra.

“On the pitch you have 11 players, in the squad, 22, and you see only one or two. You always see him doing something special, the way he’s playing, it’s beautiful to see.

“I was always watching him. The ball was in one place but I was always looking for Zidane.”


Eden Hazard

Zidane’s playing career left such an influence on Hazard that it effectively lured the former Chelsea star to Real Madrid.

In 2017, the Belgium winger said: “Everyone knows the respect I have for Zidane as a player, but also as a manager. He was my idol.
“I do not know what will happen in the future. However, for sure, to play under Zidane would be a dream.”
Sure enough, he made sure that dream came true two years later.


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