French soccer player best known for leading France to the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000. Scored two goals against Brazil in the World Cup Final, scoring first in the 27th minute and then during injury time of the first half. For the French, the victory in their capital city brought about celebrations comparable with those seen at the end of the World War II.

His club career started at Cannes in 1988 before moving to Bordeaux and then Juventus, where his leadership led the Turin, Italy club to two Serie A titles in 1997 and 1998.

Career Stats:

Team               Season      GP   G
Cannes             1988/1989    2   0
Cannes             1989/1990    0   0
Cannes             1990/1991   28   1
Cannes             1991/1992   31   5
Bordeaux           1992/1993   35  10
Bordeaux           1993/1994   34   6
Bordeaux           1994/1995   37   6
Bordeaux           1995/1996   33   6
Juventus           1996/1997   28   5
Juventus           1997/1998   32   7
Juventus           1998/1999   25   2
Juventus           1999/2000   32   4
Totals                        317  52
The Best Football Player In The World TM

Football is the purest game on Earth when played by such a man. He doesn't simply drive the ball through the field with unearthly dexterity, no, we're not talking about a mere Ronaldo here. We're talking about a man who dances around the ball, mistifying his opponents by his feline gestures. I remember seeing him once, cornered by two defenders against the field limit, and before anyone (including myself) could understand anything, he had simply vanished and reappeared - behind the defenders - and was running towards the goal. "Swish, swish, look at me - I'm wind".

These skills, however impressive, are not sufficient to reach (and keep) the grade of Best Football Player In The World tm. Zidane has two other capacities that make him a deadly weapon :
  1. Insight: Within a glance, he knows exactly what the situation is, what it will be in the next second, and how he must react. His vista of the game makes him the natural leader of his team(s), the one in charge of actually creating, organizing and managing the action. And, tell you what, he's damn good at it.
  2. Precision: He can put the ball exactly where he wants within a 30 meters radius. In combination with the speed of attackers such as Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka, this turns the French football team into a multi-headed nuclear missile.

Most people who reach The Top in their domain (be it sport, music, business or whatever) tend to behave dubiously 'off the pitch'. As far as football is concerned, Maradona is the best example. Well, Zidane is the perfect counter-example : quiet, softly-spoken, self-admittedly shy though warm and intelligent. A man you'd love to have as a neighbour, a son-in-law, or simply a pal.

Zidane is nothing short of a hero in his native city of Marseilles, where football has been promoted to the rank of religion - and indeed the Stade Vélodrome attracts much more people weekly than all the churches, temples and mosques of the city together. A giant portrait of "Zizou" has been placed by his sponsor Adidas on the wall of a big building that overhangs the port - if you come to Marseilles by sea, you just can't miss it.

But what makes Zidane an ideal hero for modern France is his origins. You may have noticed that "Zinedine Zidane" does not sound very French. Zidane is the 3rd son of Algerian migrants (Kabylians, more accurately) who settled in France in the 60s. The massive waves of immigration from Northern Africa induced tensions in French society, and Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front routinely reached 15% in national elections. Zidane is the perfect exemple of successful "integration": he is kindness personified, he proudly wears the colours of France, and the only accent he has is Marseillais. When Jean Dupont (the French Joe Smith) looks at Zidane, he doesn't see an Algerian, he sees a Frenchman no different from him.

When the French team won the World Cup in 1998 with Zidane as their leader, the Arc de Triomphe was decorated with a giant "Zidane for President" sign. A million people on the Champs-Elysées cheered and waved tricolore flags. For the first time, France was proudly branding itself as a multiracial nation with a unique and unified culture. Soon afterwards, for seemingly unrelated reasons, the National Front collapsed. Today the far right's scores are negligible, and the French football team recently managed to win the never-attained Grand Slam: World Cup and European Championship in a row. The best football team in the world, with Zinedine Zidane at its head, joyfully propelled France into the 21st century.

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