The Ones That Got Away...Zidane
Full Name: Zinedine Yazid Zidane
Date of Birth: 23rd June 1972, Marseille
Internationals: 108 Caps for France, 31 goals
Signed: Didn't, but could have in 1995!
Clubs: US Saint-Henri, Septemes Sports Olympiques, Cannes, Bordeaux (all France), Juventus (Italy) & Real Madrid (Spain)
Obviously Zinedine Zidane never actually signed for Blackburn Rovers but he almost did, famously he slipped through the net to arguable be the most notable one that got away…
French legend Zidane or simply Zizou or ZZ doesn't really need much of an introduction or billing but one of the all time greats of French and World footballing history will get one, albeit a brief summary of an amazing career that involved an even more amazing oversight by Rovers!
The legendary Frenchman's footballing career began with a local team of the Marseille area US Saint-Henri before Septemes Sports Olympiques signed him. In 1988 as a 14-year-old he was spotted by Cannes and invited for a six-week stay with the club… he wouldn't leave until four years later.
A move to Bordeaux took place in 1992 and after deciding his International future lay with France (as Zidane's parents immigrated to France from Algeria he held dual citizenship so could have represented either) his debut came in 1994 as a substitute. With France 2-0 down to the Czech Republic Zidane came off the bench two score two goals to earn France a 2-2 draw, he rarely looked back after.
Then came the moment that could have seen Rovers sign Zidane from Bordeaux! Manager at the time Kenny Dalglish wanted to bring him and compatriot and team mate Christophe Dugarry to Ewood Park but the move never happened with Jack Walker reported to have said: "Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?" A deal never happened and the rest as they say is history...
Staying with Bordeaux Zidane aided then to victory in the 1995 Intertoto Cup which gained them entry into the 1995-1996 season's UEFA Cup. The club went all the way through to the Final ending as runners up.
His first taste of tournament football on the International stage with France came in England for the 1996 European Championship Finals. With Zidane's help France advanced to the semi-finals before losing to the eventual runners up the Czech Republic 6-5 on penalties.
After Euro '96, and little more than a year after Rovers interest as Alan Shearer left Ewood for a Newcastle United in a World Record transfer of £15 million Zidane moved to Juventus for a bargain £3 million.
His time with the Serie A giants saw him win the European Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 1996 and the Scudetto (Serie A Title) in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons as well as ending as a Champions League runner up two-years running also during the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons.
If he hadn't already Zidane announced himself to the World audience he soon would as he helped France to the 1998 World Cup Final. After being sent off for stamping on an opponent in a group fixture with Saudi Arabia he returned from suspension to help France through the knockout stages and scored two goals as France beat Brazil 3-0 in the Final. Later in 1998 Zidane picked up the FIFA World Player of the Year as well as the Ballon d'Or for the European Player of the Year.
Two-years later as France entered the 2000 European Championship's in Holland and Belgium as favourites Zidane helped them win that crown also. Crucial goals in the knockout stages saw France take on Italy in the Final and after an injury time equaliser from Sylvan Wiltord France came from behind to win thanks to a Golden Goal from David Trezeguet. Zidane picked up his second European Player of the Year award later in 2000.
His time in Italy came to an end in 2001 when he transferred to Spanish giants Real Madrid for a World Record fee of £46 million, an amount that to this day remains the highest fee paid for a footballer (despite the best efforts of Chelsea!) In the same year he picked up his first honour with Madrid as they won the Spanish Super Cup.
The 2001-2002 season finally saw it third time lucky for Zidane as he scored the winning goal to give Madrid a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen as they lifted the 2002 European Champions League with him also being voted the UEFA Champions League Most Valuable Player that season.
France went into the 2002 World Cup Finals in Japan and Korea as defending Champions, being many peoples tip to win again. But having missed the opening two group games through injury Zidane's return in the third and final game couldn't help save them from an embarrassing group stage exit.
2002-2003 began with victories in the European Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup's of 2002 seeing he ended the season with his one and only La Liga Title with Madrid, he also added a second Spanish Super Cup after their 2003 victory and capped this fine season by picking up his third European Player of the Year award in 2003.
With Zidane by now the captain of the national team he lead them into the 2004 European Championship Finals in Portugal with them hoping for a better showing as they defended this title. Defeat to eventual winners Greece in the first knockout round saw France eliminated and he called time on his International career, or so people thought. Later in 2004 Zidane picked up yet another gong. As part of the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll he was voted the best European Player of the Past 50 Years.
With France struggling in their attempts to qualify for the 2006 World Cup Finals Zidane came out of retirement along with Lillian Thuram and Claude Makelele to steer them to the top of their group and a safe passage to Germany.
After an injury plagued 2005-2006 season Zidane announced that it would be his last as he planned to retire after leading France one last time at the World Cup Finals. His final appearance for Madrid, and indeed in club football came on 7th May 2006 as Madrid drew 3-3 with Villarreal, with Zidane among the scorers. An emotional Zizou left the field to a standing ovation after being cheered for the full 90 minutes.
His last hurrah saw him on the World`s biggest stage for a third and final time as an ageing French side began its 2006 World Cup Finals campaign much like they had their last… with a struggle. After a poor start a win over Togo in their final game assured France's safe passage into the knockout rounds where they and Zidane grew with every game making in through to the World Cup Final to meet Italy.
After giving the French an early lead with a penalty with the match tied at 1-1 in extra time for the now infamous head butting incident on Italian defender Marco Materazzi Zidane was sent off. Italy gained revenge for Euro 2000 going on to win 5-3 on penalties as a legend of the game ended his career in such a sad way. He did however still have one more award to win, some say controversially. Despite his sending off in the final he was named in the FIFA Team of the Tournament and also picked up the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball Award for being voted the Player of the Tournament.
How much difference would Zidane have made to Blackburn Rovers history had he be signed, maybe even along with team mate Dugarry we'll never know but you would have thought that he would have surely made an impact before being snapped up by Manchester United, Juventus, Real Madrid or another giant of European Football as would have been inevitable.
But nobody can doubt on reflection that even though Zinedine Zidane didn't actually sign for Rovers, the fact that he could means he is one of the very best, if not the best one that got away...
The above information is as accurate to my knowledge as possible, up to and including 6th December 2006.
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