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Football: What next for Zinedine Zidane?

For football fans growing up around the world in the 1990s France midfielder Zinedine Zidane is an icon, at his best simply a joy to watch.

This article was originally published on 23 June 2022

Here was a player; elegant, strong and beautifully brilliant, who could run games on his own, while he also had a steely, determined, typically Gallic edge that set him apart.

A plethora of awards

A Ballon D'or winner in 1998 and a three-time FIFA Player of the Year, Zidane has won a whole host of individual accolades.

He's regularly in the conversation when the very best players to have ever kicked a football are discussed and is the answer to several quiz questions.

The joint-top-scorer of most goals in World Cup Finals? Tick. The oldest player to win the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (at 34 years and 17 days)? That's Zizou.

The only manager to win three consecutive UEFA Champions League finals? Yep, you've guessed it.

Serious contender for PSG job

The former Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid playmaker is 50 today and is in the running to succeed Mauricio Pochettino as Paris Saint-Germain boss if, as expected, the former Tottenham chief departs the Parc des Princes this summer.

If he were to be appointed it would mark a welcome return to the dugout for a manager who is somewhat curiously under-rated with a blazer on his back compared to the high regard he's held in as a player.

Zidane was supremely successful while in charge at the Bernabeu, but possibly due to two slightly mysteriously timed exits, his trophy-winning haul as Los Blancos' chief goes somewhat under the radar.

Not only did the French legend guide Real to two domestic league titles and three Champions League wins, amongst several other trophies, but he broke plenty of records when in situ in the Madrid capital.

He oversaw the joint-longest winning streak in the history of La Liga, at 16 games - an accolade he shares with Pep Guardiola - while he also guided Real to the most consecutive away wins in the history of the Spanish top-flight when embarking on a 13-game winning streak on the road.

Real records galore

On top of that, Zizou has won the most trophies after being a manager for only 100 games (seven) and was also the architect of the longest unbeaten run in Real Madrid's history when they didn't lose for 40 games between April 2016 and January 2017.

It's been no surprise, then, to hear Zidane's name mentioned when a lot of the top jobs have become available throughout Europe recently.

He was, at one point, thought to be seriously under consideration for the Manchester United post before the Red Devils went down a different route a couple of years ago.

However, it looks like being only a matter of time, whether that's in Paris or not, before Zidane is back in top-level management.

Some critics still not satisfied

There are some criticisms of Zidane, however. There were rumours he wasn't tactically flexible enough for some of the decision-makers at Real and his detractors say he lost too many big games due to sticking to a rigid plan.

There were also the odd moan from fans that his style of football was sometimes too negative and pragmatic.

Other reports before he quit for the first time in 2018 begun to question his man-management style and, while Zidane does not appear to be 'a hugger' in the same mould as Jurgen Klopp or even considered as warm a manager as someone like Pep Guardiola, he apparently moulded himself a lot on Carlo Ancelotti - the man who has, of course, just won Real's 14th European Cup.

Incidentally, Real are 12/1 to win next season's Champions League, while PSG are available at 11/2.

Future Les Bleus boss?

There are some reports suggesting that Zidane could be a France boss in the future too. This could well be his destiny as there will be Les Bleus fans who feel he has unfinished business with the national team - who are 6/1 to retain their world crown in Qatar this winter - after his controversial exit from the international stage as a player.

Who could forget, with everything seemingly set up for Zidane to go out on the ultimate high and lead his side to more world glory in 2006, he reacted to an incident with Italy's Marco Materazzi and proceeded to head-butt him.

It was one of those open-mouthed 'did that just happen' moments when you really had to look two or three times and the red card that followed - in extra-time when France were drawing 1-1 due to Zidane's earlier outrageous Panenka penalty - meant Raymond Domenech's side struggled without their talisman.

Italy went on to win on penalties in Germany and thus Zidane's playing career ended, in some respects, in disgrace.

He may well feel his success as a coach has already made up for that misdemeanour and, by the next day after the 2006 World Cup final, as he was clutching his player of the tournament trophy, many French fans were happy to forgive and forget.

And for someone who has already made a huge impact as both a player and a manager in the past 20 years, one thing appears certain, we've surely not heard the last of Zidane quite yet.

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