Zinedine Zidane takes over as Real Madrid coach: 5 things about the French football legend

Zinedine Zidane celebrating after he scores in a league match against Sevilla on Jan 15, 2006.
Zinedine Zidane celebrating after he scores in a league match against Sevilla on Jan 15, 2006.PHOTO: AFP

Real Madrid hero Zinedine Zidane has been installed as the Spanish giants' newest coach after the club sacked his predecessor Rafael Benitez on Monday (Jan 5).

 

The 43-year-old Frenchman, a three-time Fifa World Player of the Year, was at the height of his playing prowess during a five-year spell (2001-2006) - when he won the Champions League in 2002 - with Madrid.

While there are doubts over Zidane's lack of coaching experience and calibre, the decision is a popular one given his revered status among supporters and from within the club.

But is "Zizou" the man to shape Madrid's team of stars into a title-winning force? We take a look at a couple of notable highlights in his career, some lesser known facts about his life and track his rise to prominence to head honcho of one of the biggest clubs in world football.

1. He is of North African heritage


Zidane embracing Real Madrid president Florentino Perez after his unveiling as head coach. PHOTO: REUTERS

Although Zidane was born in La Castellane, a neighbourhood on the fringes of Marseille, his parents were Algerian immigrants who moved from northern Algeria in 1953, a year before the Algerian War.

The non-practising Muslim's club career first took him to Cannes at the age of 14, where he stayed four years before transferring to Bordeaux. A series of eye-catching performances earned him a move to top Italian club Juventus in 1996.

It was in Italy - he won two league titles and his first two Player of the Year awards - that cemented his place as a bona fide star when Real Madrid came calling.

Zidane, whose transfer fee of €75 million was a world record then, joined other world stars such as Luis Figo, Ronaldo and David Beckham in what was known as Madrid's "Galactico" era.

2. Everybody loves him


Zidane playing for France in a friendly against Scotland on March 27, 2002. PHOTO: AFP

Zidane is just as famous for his bald pate - he started losing his hair at the age of 24 - as he is for his sometimes other-worldly football skills.

Stars past and present have been unstinting in lavishing praise on him. Brazil legend Pele hailed him as "the master", Becknam described him as the "greatest of all time" while Swedish great Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he was from another planet. Ibrahimovic added: "When Zidane stepped onto the pitch, the 10 other guys just got suddenly better. It is that simple."


Zidane and Spanish midfielder Xavi at a presentation of the official Euro 2016 football. PHOTO: AFP

He is fourth on the list of France's all-time goalscorers with 31 goals in 106 appearances - including a double against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final - behind Thierry Henry (51), Michel Platini (41) and David Trezeguet (34).

Zidane has also scored several memorable goals at club level. His match-winning strike in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen (Madrid won 2-1) is cited as one of the greatest in the prestigious competition's history.

3. That famous headbutt

For all his brilliant exploits that ranked him among the best midfielders in history, Zidane is also notorious for one of the most controversial incidents in world football.

Already a World Cup (1998) and European Championships (2000) winner with France, he came out of retirement and was gunning for his dream swansong at the 2006 World Cup in Italy.

But the fairy tale took a sickening twist in the final against the hosts. The red mist descended in extra-time - with the score poised at 1-1 - as Zidane reacted to Marco Materazzi's jibe about his sister by headbutting the Italian defender in the chest.


Zidane headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final. PHOTO: AFP

France lost 3-5 in the penalty shootout and Zidane subsequently announced his retirement from football.

4. From club adviser to head coach


Zidane on the sidelines with head coach Carlo Ancelotti during the 2014 Champions League final. PHOTO: EPA

Following his retirement, Zidane took a hiatus from the game before he was announced as an adviser to Real Madrid supremo Florentino Perez, who had just been elected president for the second time, in June 2009.

He also served as an ambassador during Qatar's successful bid in 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup.

Despite previously stating that he had no plans to coach, Zidane moved swiftly up the coaching ranks in Madrid - first in a special advisory role working with then-coach Jose Mourinho, then as sporting director in 2011.


Zidane overseeing a training session during his stint as assistant coach on Jan 11, 2014. PHOTO: EPA

Zidane was named as the first team's assistant coach under Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti in 2013 before moving to take over the reins of the club's B team, Real Madrid Castilla, a year later.

5. Four more Zidanes in the making?


Zidane with his wife and four sons on vacation. PHOTO: ZINEDINE ZIDANE/FACEBOOK

The world could well get another chance to see a Zidane perform on football's biggest stage.

Zidane and his wife Veronique Fernandez, whom he married in 1994, have four sons - Enzo, 20; Luca, 17; Theo, 13, and Elyaz, 10.

All four have progressed through the ranks of the Read Madrid youth academy. Oldest son Enzo (who sports his mother's surname Fernandez on his jersey) is a midfielder like his father in the club's C team and has been capped by Spain at the Under-19 level, while second son Luca plies his trade as a goalkeeper in the Real Madrid U-17s.

Theo and Elyaz also play in midfield and turn out for Real Madrid's boys' teams.

Sources: The Guardian, AFP, Reuters, Daily Mail