It is usually great goalscorers that are mentioned in debates around the greatest player of all time, but make no mistake about it, Zinedine Zidane deserves to be in that conversation.
The France icon did score goals – and great ones at that – but he captured the imagination due to his all-round game. Zizou matched grace with power, subtlety with skills and humility with the odd reminder that he was the boss.
But rather than pay tribute to the former Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid ourselves, we’ve left it to the experts – the players and managers who got to witness his greatness firsthand.
“He was as elegant as a dancer – he even used the soles of his boots efficiently. Everything was easy for him; he made such movements that if I tried to copy them I would break my legs.”
“The most elegant footballer I have ever seen.”
“For me, he’s the greatest player of the century. The best player of all time.”
“When Zidane stepped onto the pitch, the 10 other guys just got suddenly better. It is that simple. It was magic.
“He was a unique player. He was more than good, he came from another planet. His team-mates became like him when he was on the pitch.”
“A true artist. What he could do with the ball was incredible. Only Maradona could do the same. Zizou was also a player capable of rising to the occasion at important moments, and deciding games.”
“To see Zidane in action was to witness poetry in motion. The skills, the vision, the goals…he was a sublime performer. When he was at his peak, winning the World Cup, the Champions League and all the rest, he was unquestionably the finest player on the planet.”
“Zidane is one of the best footballers of all time, one of my idols. He had such elegance and grace, a wonderful touch and superb vision.”
“I think he was born with a ball at his feet. I think when the doctor pulled him out, he said ‘This is weird, there is a ball here!'”
Edwin van der Sar
“A very normal guy. I remember guys coming in with their Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis, and Zizou comes in with a Fiat Punto. The aura he had, the way he moved on the pitch was special.”
Alfredo Di Stefano
“He dominates the ball, he is a walking spectacle and he plays as if he had silk gloves on each foot. He makes it worthwhile going to the stadium – he’s one of the best I have ever seen.”
“To train with Zidane for three years was a dream. For me, he is the greatest player of all time.”
“In France, everybody realised that God exists and that he is back in the French international team. God is back, there is little left to say.”
“Zizou is a god!”
“Zidane is unique. The ball flows with him. He is more like a dancer than a football player.”
“Zidane is the master. Over the past 10 years there’s been no-one like him, he has been the best player in the world.”
“The greatest player of the past 20 years? It has to be Zidane. He had everything. You never needed to tell him anything as he did it all by himself and knew what was expected.”
“Nobody knows if Zidane is an angel or demon. He smiles like Saint Teresa and grimaces like a serial killer.”
“I would give up five players to have Zidane in my squad.”
“Every piece of advice he gives you is like gold dust and it helps you improve on the pitch.”