- Zidane and the Trophy come close… but not close enough
- The Frenchman headbutted his way from hero to villain
- Zizou begged for forgiveness from watching children
It wasn't supposed to end this way.
Zinedine Zidane, already a FIFA World Cup™ icon as the hero of France’s 1998 win, had been sublime in this, his final tournament. Though his 34th birthday and retirement were fast approaching, the graceful midfielder had produced performances that would earn him Germany 2006’s adidas Golden Ball award as the edition’s outstanding player.
Even the Final, which he had confirmed would be the last competitive match of his glorious career, seemed set to provide a fitting conclusion. But while Zidane illuminated the Berlin showpiece with an audacious opening goal – a Panenka penalty past another Juventus favourite in Gianluigi Buffon – this would not be the moment for which the match, and his contribution to it, would be remembered.
With France and Italy locked at 1-1 deep into extra time, Zizou – a man renowned for producing moments of beauty – stunned the watching world with a violent head-butt to the chest of Marco Materazzi. “It was not pretty,” he later admitted. "I ask for forgiveness from the kids who saw it.”
The immediate consequence, as this image shows, was as sad as it was just. Red carded for his moment of madness, Zidane ended his career with a long and lonely walk to the dressing room, poignantly passing by a trophy that, without him, Les Bleus proved powerless to reclaim.