At a time when we no longer have time to wait, where every second that passes is one lost, Zinédine Zidane is a case study, which deserves in-depth study in the training centers of the Hexagon and elsewhere. At a time when we have missed our chance at 22, that we are out of date if we have not hatched at 24, ZZ would be a fantastic anomaly. An anachrony, at least.
The blessed Zizou was born with talent and a unique touch of the ball which classified him from his years in Cannes in a category apart. Barely out of adolescence, what he did with a ball (which Maradona perhaps succeeded with an orange, according to a teasing or spiteful Michel Platini, it depends), few of his congeners, much more seasoned than he showed himself capable of it.
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From Gilles Rampillon to Jean Fernandez, via Guy Lacombe, who accompanied him in his first life on the Riviera, everyone saw that the gifted kid from La Castellane was endowed with inimitable ease and gestures. His ball control, silky, coupled with a balance and a gesture of a tightrope walker, augured the best. It is no coincidence that Fernandez launched him into the deep end at 16 and a half. That day, at La Beaujoire and in the camp opposite, there were Didier Deschamps and Marcel Desailly, also promised a bright future.
Zinédine Zidane in the jersey of AS Cannes.
Credit: Getty Images
Not the new Platini
From Marseille on June 23, 1972, to Saint-Denis on July 12, 1998, the date when two whims brought him into the Pantheon and propelled him into another sphere, Zizou experienced a slow evolution. The number 10 of the Blues has progressed at its own pace. Regularly. Surely.
The new Platini was never him. It was Jean-Marc Ferreri, for a time, Gérald Passi, too, then Philippe Vercruysse, a little later. We know what happened.
“Yazid” was not the designated successor. Zidane has long remained sheltered from the encroaching shadow of Platoche. She ended up falling on his overcoat when ZZ joined Juventus Turin, without number 10 on his back, reserved for Del Piero. He inherited 21. And wrote his own story. Well he took it.
Zinedine Zidane in the jersey of Juventus Turin
Credit: Getty Images
The France team, Zidane discovered it at 22 years old. At an age where, today, a guy of his talent and with his promises would have already compiled 30 or 40 selections. There too, everything was piano, even if the Bordelais had taken on the task of speeding up the tempo from the first, on an evening in August 1994 when he had given his partners a big helping hand. By a double, already.
Due to his character and due to an unfeigned humility, Zidane has never claimed anything. Confined to playing defensive midfielder or torchbearer in Cannes as in his first season in Bordeaux where he leaned to the left, with friend Duga and friend Liza, he finally found himself at the heart of the game, a notch higher. Naturally. The obvious was obvious to everyone. Except his own.
Zidane, is he the player I was told about or is he the one I saw at the European Championship?
Among Les Bleus version Jacquet, the leader and master to play was first Eric Cantona. Then Youri Djorkaeff and him, finally. Canto self-suppressed, the question even arose whether Djorkaeff and Zidane could play together. We quickly knew. But before being sure that ZZ had the shoulders to carry the Blues to the top of Everest, we had to wait a little longer. Because its premiere on an international stage, at the Euro, was an obvious failure. 0 goals, 0 assists: even for a footballer who doesn’t live by and for statistics, it’s messy.
In his defense, the new Juventino had been the victim of a road accident less than a month before the start of the European Championship. Under the violence of the shock, he had made the gear lever give way and his thigh, green, blue and black, had reminded him of it throughout a dull summer, from Newcastle to Manchester.
A few weeks later, when he discovered Juventus and a new world, he returned to this first experience, in the columns of L’Equipe. “I tried to be positive, to tell myself that this first big competition which had gone badly for me will do me good for later, that it prepared me for the World Cup. I was not ready, you had to be stronger than that, that’s all.”
Lucid, he had also had to cash in on the cowries of the president of Juve, Giovanni Agnelli, who had put 35 million francs on his name. “Zidane, is he the player I was told about or is he the one I saw at the European Championship?” There too, ZZ had not flinched. He had set to work, at double or triple dose. And after a period of adaptation to the best championship in the world, which symbolically ended with a fantastic goal against at Inter, Zidane moved up a rank.
Third in the 1997 Ballon d’Or, often brilliant with the Blues before the big meeting in 1998, he had to cross the World Cup like you split a field of brambles. Until the ultimate meeting, the one that definitively propelled him into another sphere, the one he would never leave.
Before the final against Brazil, Laurent Blanc, deprived of dessert because of a pie on Bilic, had come to see him and asked him to come out of his cocoon: “Score at least one goal, now we’ll see if you’re a great player”. We saw. Zidane got two. All you had to do was ask. And to wait. It was worth it.
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