Zidane confirms his farewell

Real Madrid star and France legend Zinedine Zidane on Wednesday explained his decision to retire after the World Cup finals in Germany and not play on with his club for another year.

”I didn’t make this decision overnight. It’s one I’ve mulled over for a long time,” Zidane told a news conference in Madrid, confirming what he had told French television on Tuesday.

”I am going to leave football at the end of the season, allowing Real to plan for the coming season,” said Zidane, speaking in Spanish, adding that he and the club were working on a plan which would see him remain at the club to coach children.

”I’d like to stay with Real Madrid — we have a project which would see me doing something related to [working with] the kids,” said Zidane, adding that the club had persuaded him to sign a final playing deal to 2007, although his intention was to fix his sights on retirement this year.

”Things come to an end — that’s life. The years go by and it gets harder and harder to play every three days,” he reflected.

The French star, a father-of-four who turns 34 in June, gained footballing immortality when his two headed goals in the 1998 final helped humble Brazil and hand hosts France their first World Cup title.

”It’s every player’s dream to win the World Cup. When you realise you’ve won one, something so few players have done, then that goes down as my best achievement,” Zidane added.

In 2000, France added the European Championship crown, by which time Zidane was seeking a new challenge with Real after four years with Juventus, for whom he had left Bordeaux in 1996.

With his intuition and on-field vision, Marseille-born Zidane, whose family are of Algerian origin, started out in 1988 with Cannes on the French Riviera. He earned his spurs as one of the all-time greats, his balletic skills bringing him three Fifa World Player of the Year accolades, in 1998, 2000 and 2003.

Despite claiming two Serie A titles, Zidane’s Juve lost Champions League finals to Borussia Dortmund and to Real Madrid.

Although France lacked a natural goal scorer in 1998, Zidane’s double in the final masked that weakness, just as midfield forbear Michel Platini’s eye for goal had led France to the 1984 European Championship.

With the likes of Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet maturing up front it seemed Zidane could lead the national side to further glory in 2002 in Asia.

But a thigh muscle injury struck before the finals and Zidane was restricted to a cameo role in the final group game as the holders crashed out without scoring a single goal.

Just prior to that heartache Zidane, who cost Real $67-million to prise him away from Juve, had scored a brilliant goal to fire Real to victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League final.

But age has slowly been catching up with him and the effort has increasingly shown.

”I didn’t want to go on for another year. The past two years I haven’t been on top form and that’s no good when you play at a club like Real,” he said.

In 2004, after 28 goals in 98 international appearances, Zidane said he was quitting international football after France slumped out to eventual winners Greece in the quarterfinals of Euro 2004.

Last August he agreed to return with France having endured a tortuous World Cup qualifying campaign.

At the Bernabeu, however, Real and Zidane have failed to reach their exacting standards over three trophy-less years, which has proved the limits of the Spanish side’s galactico business model.

A Real Madrid statement on Wednesday dubbed Zidane ”one of the greatest players, who helped magnify the history of Real Madrid with his elegance and fantasy football”.

Fellow 1998 world champion Marcel Desailly told French radio: ”Zidane made us dream.”

In fact, he did more than that. He turned the dream into reality. — AFP



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