Zinedine Zidane before the UEFA Champions League match between Juventus and Monaco at Stadio Delle Alpi, Turin, April 1998.

Zinedine Zidane and the no-look pass that melted our eyeballs

Zinedine Zidane truly was one of football’s greatest ever, and the highlight reels of him strutting his stuff only seem to get better with age. Marvelling over his best bits is a daily occurrence for many, and even they don’t do his wizardry enough justice.

There’s just something about those older football clips from the 90s. The big wafty shirts, the no-nonsense advertising boards and the unrelenting bursts of flair and creativity that seemed to possess the best players of the generation.

Zizou embodied all of that. A visionary in every sense of the word, he made football look effortless and obscenely difficult in the same breath, with mesmerising flicks around players under extreme pressure, and passes that the regular person wouldn’t be able to see, even with the assistance of RADAR.

Despite knowing just how ridiculously good he was at football, the Frenchman would still find ways to innovate and leave spectators with their jaws on the floor. That was 20+ years ago, and somehow those clips still have the same effect now.

None perhaps more so than his assist for Alessandro Del Piero in a quarter-final demolition of Dynamo Kyiv in March 1998, a time when the pair were tormenting defenders for shits and giggles.

As the ball goes from front to back in a time Sean Dyche would these days be proud of, Zidane – on an admittedly boggy pitch more akin to a Sunday league field – meets a hopeful ball that was hoofed forward from defence in the middle of the park.

But instead of taking it down and using his endless abilities to generate time and space before picking his pass, he simply says ‘nah, f*ck that’ and blows everyone’s minds.

Runs onto it, hooks his boot around it and, without ever looking behind his own shoulder, loops the ball directly into the path of Del Piero, who finishes in almost as impressive fashion.

It might well be the greatest assist ever. You’ll certainly hear no arguments from us.

Imperious. The guy was an absolute machine.

In fact, Del Piero’s finish is that good that it actually diverts attention away from the sheer sorcery that Zidane had just produced. No other midfielder is producing a pass like that, with the perfect weight and direction, without even having to look. None. Debate over.

Imagine having to play against someone like that on the weekend? No, I certainly can’t, because I’d be straight back to the car in an instant. Boots off. Head in hands. We go again next weekend.

A trailblazer for the next generation, the best midfielders of today are still watching how Zidane did it and are trying to improve their game around his. Endlessly ahead of his time, the Frenchman clinched the Ballon d’Or in 1998 and would command a world record transfer fee from Real Madrid three years later, in order to pry him away from the grips of Turin.

That might be enough for most to down tools and simply enjoy being a Madridista, but not Zizou. Nah. Instead, he would cement his legacy as one of the greatest ever until his 2006 retirement, pulling together one of the most ridiculous career highlights reels ever imaginable.

By Mitchell Wilks

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