This interview took place in 2008 and was posted on Zidane’s official website (zidane.fr) but has been taken down. We see an outspoken, passionate Zizou, a far cry from his slightly reticent public image. The interview is in French but Foot and Ball is proud to bring you an edited, translated version of this candid interview with an iconic footballer.
On life after retirement:
When I was a player I would train everyday and travel every two days. My teammates and I lived in a bubble and we only cared about Football, about the next game. That was all I did for 17 years.
When the time came to retire, I realized that I couldn’t just go from that life to doing nothing at all, staying at home twiddling my thumbs. I couldn’t lie in bed all day while my children woke up at 7AM. So now I get up, have breakfast with them, take them to school, and then do whatever I have to do.
I’m fortunate that sponsors who worked with me when I was a player continued to support me. Now I go away for a couple of days, come back on weekends and see my family. I’ve got four children to take care of and it’s important to raise them properly, because they need to understand that life isn’t easy. Even though I managed to be successful in my career, they need to realize the importance of work and of staying yourself.
On the Brazil-France game at the 2006 World Cup:
We played a really good game that day. It’s interesting that the great games with the national team were often against Brazil. I think it has to do with the fact that you play with freedom against them. In 2006, we told ourselves that we had nothing to lose, because even if we had lost that game, there’s no shame in losing to Brazil! I also knew that it might very well be my last professional game so I told myself, “enjoy this moment, go out there and have some fun”.
The night before, we were all talking about the game: “Wow, a World Cup quarter final against Brazil”. We were calm and didn’t really worry but obviously this is Brazil we’re talking about, we could have conceded a goal at any time!
I went to see Ronaldo after the Brazil-France game. I said to him, “don’t worry, it’s not too bad. You’ll have an early vacation!”
Ronaldo is an amazing guy. We got along really well, even though we’re quite different people. To me, he’s the best footballer I ever played with. When he was at the top of his game, no one could match him.
About Casillas and the Galacticos: [Casillas had said that “the galacticos were a complete circus”]
It was never us who bought about that situation. From the players’ point of view, we all had a great relationship. I never liked the term galacticos, that word was created by journalists. When a reporter decides to glorify five players and make them different from the rest of the team, then of course there’s a gulf that’s being created. The papers would insinuate that these players were the reason Real Madrid was winning. So I understand why, after a while, Casillas was fed up with the whole galacticos thing.
The bigger problem came when we started to lose games. Obviously the rest of the team would turn against the so-called galacticos. They wouldn’t just say, “Well, it’s their fault”. They’d really go for it, especially after these 5 players took all the credit when the team was winning.
That whole situation hurt a lot of people, so it’s a real shame to hear Casillas say that. Today, he’s hailed as one of the best keepers in the world but he’ll probably go through the same situation as the galacticos did. People will say he’s better than the other keepers, and when things won’t be going so well, he’ll get a lot of criticism. It’s a vicious cycle.
On his preparation for the 2006 World Cup:
Things weren’t going very well at Real that year. In fact, at one point things got really bad and though the team later improved, we still couldn’t win anything. That’s just not good enough for a club like Real Madrid.
I was already thinking about preparing myself for the World Cup. I wanted to be in the best possible shape and not have my return to the national team be some sort of a cheap gimmick. So for three or four months prior to the tournament, I trained really hard, like a madman.
I remember France-Mexico [that took place about two weeks before the World Cup]. I was exhausted during that game, and people would ask, “If he’s burned out now, how is he going to be fit for the World Cup?” Of course, they had the right to ask themselves that but I had faith in what I was doing to get ready. If you train really hard and follow that with a recovery period, you’ll be at a good fitness level. That’s pretty much what happened.
On the disappointment of Euro 2004:
In 2004, I think we didn’t find the right balance in terms of fitness. In the quarter-final [against eventual winners Greece] there was a huge gap between the Greeks and us. They had the hunger to win, and were in better shape physically. It was really frustrating to realize we weren’t as fit as the opposite team: we were second to every loose ball, lost every one-on-one… The thing is, on paper at least – and with all due respect to the Greece team – we should have been the better team that day. But that’s not what happened. Physically, they were right on top of us; they were really up for it.
On Euro 2000:
We were at our peak in 2000, completely untouchable. It was the natural progression from our World Cup win two years before. There was a great atmosphere in the team: We’d all sit and have dinner together in the hotel, all 23 of us. Usually in those situations, you eat quickly and try to get it over with. But In 2000, we’d sit around the table for more than an hour and just chat.
In a tournament like the World Cup, a team needs to be united. If you get into fights or arguments, things can turn bad really quickly. Take the substitutes for example: It’s hard to be a sub, it’s frustrating to train every day when you know you’re not going to play. But they can’t show their frustration to the rest of the players or they’ll end up spreading those negative feelings. Substitutes are really important and I honestly think they deserve a lot of credit, especially in tournaments.
On footballers’ earnings:
The problem is that footballers will always earn too much money in the eyes of many. I understand that, but it’s important to realize that we’re not stealing that money. If people are willing to pay these amounts to players, it’s because we get people to come to the games. To put it simply, Football is the most popular sport in the world and there’s a lot of money in it. But I know there’s a lot of less fortunate people out there who can’t make ends meet and I accept their criticism. That’s why I never flaunted the money I gained. I have too much respect for people that are going through tough times.
Original Interview by Olivier De Los Bueis and Jalil Bennani
You can find Part 1 of the original interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO1aCuvJR8M