Advent Day 5 – Zinedine Zidane, Zou Bissou Zizou

By Joe Davies

Mad Men’s fifth season premiere ended with an iconic performance of the French song ‘Zou Bissou Bissou’, sung by Don Draper’s French-Canadian wife to him on his birthday. Don shifted in his seat uncomfortably as Meghan sung the song roughly translated as ‘Oh! Kiss Kiss’, reflecting the generational gap between the two, as Meghan Draper bared the couple’s intimate relationship for all his coworkers to see. Much like Don, one could imagine Zinedine Zidane would likewise be uncomfortable with the adoration he receives from French football fans, as well as that from across the border in Madrid; much like Draper, Zizou is a reserved, strong and silent type, and has a similar identity problem, albeit down to his Algerian roots rather than stealing the name of his officer in command during the war.

Zinedine Zidane took the unconventional number 5 shirt at Real in 2001, arriving from Juventus for a world record 150 billion Lira, where he wore the 21 later inherited by Andrea Pirlo. The reason behind this peculiar choice is down to Florentino Pérez’s gálactico policy of signing a world star every summer: Zidane arrived as the second gálactico after Luís Figo’s controversial move from Barcelona the summer before, and was forced to take one of the few remaining single-digit shirts left in the squad for marketing reasons, with the Portuguese winger occupying Zizou’s favoured number 10 that he wore for France. Needless to say, the French playmaker would go on to make the number as iconic as any other during his five year stint at the club, where he picked up one La Liga title, one Supercopa de España, one Champions League medal, one UEFA Cup medal, and one Intercontinental Cup medal.

One moment in particular stands out. Having beaten two European giants in Bayern Munich and Barcelona on their way to the final, Real Madrid faced Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow, aiming to win their ninth European Cup. Club legend Raúl gave the favourites, Madrid, the advantage in the eighth minute, but Real’s lead was short lived, with the Brazilian centre-half Lúcio equalising five minutes later. Madrid failed to impose their predicted dominance on the game in a tightly contested first half, until one moment of brilliance on the stroke of half time:

Roberto Carlos whipped in the ball from the left in the 45th minute of the game, and Zidane, in his first season at the club, cemented his status as legend, catching the high cross perfectly with his left boot and sending it into Hans Jörg-Butt’s top corner. The goal remains one of the best ever scored in a European final to this day, with Zidane refusing to concede its superiority to Gareth Bale’s overhead kick against Liverpool in last year’s Champions League victory – Real’s 13th European title, and Zidane’s record-breaking third in a row as Madrid’s manager.

On Bale’s goal, he said: “It’s not the same thing. This is just the latest one that we have witnessed.”

He did, however, express his delight on the touchline, no doubt revelling in his player’s brilliance reflecting the sort of dazzling skill he had embodied as a player.

Zidane will always be remembered as one of the most magnificent players to have ever stepped foot on a professional football pitch. Kevin Keegan said: “You look at Zidane and think ‘I’ve never seen a player quite like that.’ What sets Zidane apart is the way he manipulates a football, buying himself space that isn’t there. Add his vision and it makes him very special.”

Indeed, it is nearly impossible to express in words the level of tactical intelligence, sublime skill, and consistently brilliant performances on the international stage that Zidane churned out. In 1998 he united a racially divide France as part of ‘la France black-blanc-beur’, being at the centre of a French team that reflected the racial diversity seen across France due to its African immigration following its colonial days.

If it’s impossible to tell you quite how good Zidane was, why don’t I show you.

Joe Davies is a founder of 5WFootball, edits copy and writes regularly for the site. You can see his work for 5WF here and follow him on Twitter here.

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