A total of 150 national coaches voted Zinedine Zidane FIFA World Player of the Year 2000 - ahead of Portugal's Luis Figo and the Brazilian Rivaldo. After 1998, this was the second time the 28-year-old has won the award.
On Zidane receiving the FIFA World Player 2000 award in Rome on 11 December, he was beaming with pride - it was the same in 1998. Then, he was voted best of the best particularly as a result of his brace in the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ final against Brazil, goals that helped to make France champions for the first time in their history. Now Zidane has won the crown again.
In choosing Zidane, the record number of 150 national coaches taking part in this year's vote acknowledged his extraordinary performances at the European Championship in the Netherlands and Belgium. This attacking-minded player - sometimes midfield maestro, sometimes striker - was majestic in leading Les Bleus to their tournament win. Zidane was dribbler, tactician, playmaker, superb passer and goalscorer all rolled into one. He scored the golden goal that decided the semi-final against Portugal, and then in the final, when virtually the entire football world had come to terms with an Italian win, he was tireless in urging his team on. With just seconds to go, France hit the match-saving goal to take the game into extra-time before going on to win - again thanks to a golden goal.
Zidane's election as World Player of the Year 2000 was criticised by some experts because, while playing for his Italian club Juventus Turin after UEFA EURO 2000, the Frenchman committed a dreadful foul for which he was justifiably sent off and suspended for several matches. Zidane may be a spirited footballer, but he does not trample all over the idea of fair play. Following his slip-up the Frenchman expressed his regret and vowed to keep better control of his emotions in future. It would appear that the 59 national coaches who voted 'Zizou', as the French affectionately name the legitimate successor to the legendary Michel Platini, have forgiven him for his mistake.
Watching Zidane on the pitch is an eye-opening experience, even for neutral spectators. It is sheer pleasure, supreme entertainment, and could almost be described as culture. His mastery of the ball is virtually without equal, he does not kick it, he caresses it. He treats the football as if it were a raw egg, sliding it through his opponent's legs, lifting it elegantly over flailing defenders, bending it delicately around the wall from free-kicks, dropping it 30 or 40 yards straight to a teammate's feet. The maestro does not play football, he celebrates it. Zidane on the pitch is an expression of pure romance.
This rather reserved Formula 1 fan, who once lived in a foster family, has the admiration of millions around the world. They love watching the seemingly effortless way in which he goes about his work. Zidane enjoys hero status in France in particular, and this cannot simply be put down to the victories at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and EURO 2000. In his home country Zidane is admired not least because of his down-to-earth nature and appreciation of his origins.
He regularly visits Castellane, the poor quarter in the northern part of Marseille, where 'Zizou' grew up as one of five children to a supermarket night watchman and a housewife. Zidane does not deny his roots. He is proud of descending from an Algerian mountain people, and publicly praises his father Smail for all the advice he has given him on his journey through life. Zidane still cares for the people in Castellane, playing football on the street with the local youth every now and then, just as he did before becoming one of the greatest players ever.