This Saturday, Zinedine Zidane will have the opportunity to lead Real Madrid to a UEFA Champions League-La Liga double, to help the club defend the European crown they captured last May, and to again qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup that they so impressively won in December. To achieve this goal, his charges will need to see off the challenge of Juventus, where Zizou spent five remarkable seasons, during which he twice finished on the losing side in Champions League finals.
Ahead of the much-anticipated showpiece match, FIFA.com looks back at five incidents that marked Zidane’s career in the Champions League, as a player and a coach.
Initial disappointment (1997)
Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Juventus (28 May, Olympiastadion, Munich)
Having arrived from Bordeaux the previous summer, Zidane immediately established himself and quickly became one of the lynchpins of the side. La Vecchia Signora, the reigning European champions, reached a second Champions League final in a row, thanks in part to some outstanding performances – particularly in the semi-final against Ajax – from the ex-Cannes midfielder, who was making his debut in the competition. But Borussia Dortmund made the short trip to Munich with an astute and ultimately successful game plan that involved completely negating Zidane’s influence on the match. Despite this tactic, he came close to reducing the margin at 0-2, but his shot came back off the base of the post.
Second defeat (1998)
Juventus 0-1 Real Madrid (20 May, Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam)
Although the No10 jersey, traditionally associated with the playmaker role, belonged to Alessandro Del Piero at Juventus, it was Zidane, who wore the No21 shirt, who had developed into the team’s true midfield maestro. Indeed, the Italian benefited greatly from the Marseille native’s marvellous assists, and was coming off the back of his most productive season in Turin, as the Amsterdam final approached. Brimming with confidence after having again found the net in the semi-final, Zidane exerted his authority in the opening stages of the match, but the Italian giants struggled to find a way through a well-organised Madrid defence. On the hour mark, the Spaniards struck the only goal of the game through Predrag Mijatovic, who rounded Angelo Peruzzi and poked the ball into the net. “We were in it for 20 minutes and that’s about it – I didn’t expect that kind of match,” said a clearly aggrieved Zidane after the final whistle.
Success in Scotland (2002)
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Real Madrid (15 May, Hampden Park, Glasgow)
Further Champions League setbacks were to follow for Juventus, which led to Zidane quitting the club in the summer of 2001 and signing for Real Madrid, where he would finally experience the feeling of lifting the famous continental trophy. Out of contention in La Liga, Los Galacticos had pinpointed a ninth success in the European Cup/Champions League as their top priority. Having again scored at the semi-final stage, the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ winner wrote a new chapter in the history of the illustrious tournament by dispatching a masterpiece of a goal, an incredible left-footed volley that flew into the top corner of the Bayer Leverkusen net, to put Real 2-1 up – a lead they would not relinquish.
Forlorn finale (2006)
Arsenal 0-0 Real Madrid (8 March, Highbury, London)
In failing to get past a Thierry Henry-inspired Arsenal, Zidane brought the curtain down on his Champions League adventures in anti-climactic fashion, exiting the competition at the earliest point of his career, in what was his last-ever season as a player. In the first leg of the Round of 16 clash at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, his compatriot Henry had stolen all the headlines by securing a vital 1-0 victory for the Gunners with a wonderful surge and shot, and in the return match, the London club defended stoutly, preventing Real from converting several excellent chances. In the last minute of the encounter, Zidane had an opportunity to snatch a late winner, but the Arsenal defence was quick to snuff out the danger.
Coaching triumph (2016)
Real Madrid 1-1 (5-3 on penalties) Atletico Madrid (28 May, San Siro, Milan)
While Zidane had to endure several disappointments before finally claiming a Champions League winners’ medal as a player, his experience as a coach, which saw him lead his team to glory at the first time of asking, could not have been more different. After having excelled in various key roles within the Real Madrid machine, he was promoted from his post as coach of Castilla, Real Madrid’s B team, to replace the departing Rafael Benitez in January 2016. The Frenchman’s first few months in charge were regarded as a success, and he managed to guide his players to the final, where he came out on top of a battle of nerves with his Atletico counterpart, Diego Simone. Real emerged victorious from a tense derby on penalties and Zidane became only the seventh man to hold aloft the coveted trophy as a player and coach.