Zinedine Zidane’s 50th birthday: The five greatest moments of his career

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese Updated: 23 Jun 2022 10:12 CEST 5 min read
Zinedine Zidane has been linked to Man Utd

Happy birthday Zinedine Zidane! Today the Real Madrid and France icon celebrates his fiftieth birthday.

It is another milestone and landmark reached for the legendary Frenchman, who will go down as one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game.

He lit up the sport during the nineties and noughties with his elegance, technique, creativity and a propensity to always shine in the biggest matches for club and country.

Not only that, since retiring from playing in 2006, he has gone on to become one of the world’s most successful coaches.

As we celebrate the former Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid star turning 50, we look back at the five greatest moments of his playing career.

Heading France to World Cup glory

Zidane was the hero of France’s World Cup victory on home soil in 1998.

Les Bleus had never won the World Cup and Zidane had not enjoyed the best tournament up until that point, even being sent off in the group stages.

He rose to the big occasion in the final itself versus Brazil, heading home twice from corners in the first half in a 3-0 victory.

Winning the Ballon d’Or

Zidane’s heroics in the 1998 World Cup final proved pivotal in him winning the Ballon d’Or that year.

In the process, he became only the fourth Frenchman in history win the Golden Ball after Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini and Jean-Pierre Papin.

He is also the last Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or, although Karim Benzema may end the hex this year.

THAT volley against Leverkusen

In the 2002 Champions League final, Zidane scored arguably the greatest goal in European Cup history.

Real Madrid were drawing 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen in the final when Zidane settled the game with a moment of genius.

Roberto Carlos crossed the ball high up into the sky, and Zidane volleyed it into the top-corner from the edge of the box with his weaker left-foot.

Rolling back the years in 2006

By the time Zidane travelled to the 2006 World Cup, he was approaching 34 and many felt that he was a player well past his best.

In the knockout stages, he silenced the critics as he rolled back the years in the knockout stages with three goals.

But it was his performance against holders Brazil in the quarter-finals that was most memorable. Zizou ran the show in the middle of the park, assisting Thierry Henry's winner and leading the Brazilians a merrydance in a 1-0 win.

Panenka and Headbutt

Zidane dragged France to the 2006 World Cup final in Germany in what was to be his final game before retirement.

And he once again stole the show – both for good and bad reasons.

He put France ahead with an outrageously cheeky Panenka penalty but Marco Materazzi’s header levelled matters.

In extra time, Zidane reacted to Materazzi’s trash-talking by viciously headbutting the defender. Zidane was sent off and Italy won on penalties.