ZINEDINE Zidane confirmed his retirement from the international scene yesterday, effectively marking the end of a glorious era in French football which saw Les Bleus win both the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 in an unprecedented spell of success for the country.
Following in the footsteps of former captain Marcel Desailly, and defenders Lilian Thuram and Bixente Lizarazu – who announced their decision to quit internationals following Euro 2004 this summer – Zidane said his hour had come.
“This is an important announcement because this is to announce the end of my international career with the French team,” the 32-year-old Real Madrid playmaker said in a statement on his website. “I carefully thought through this decision. I think at a certain moment, one has to say, â€˜Stopâ€™.
“Itâ€™s not easy to stop after ten years full of highs and lows … especially highs, but my hour has come. Itâ€™s the end of a cycle.”
Zidane, considered one of the greatest players in modern times, was instrumental in Franceâ€™s victory in the 1998 World Cup, scoring two headers in the final against Brazil to claim the countryâ€™s first world title and cement his place in French sporting history.
His face was flashed up onto the Arc de Triomphe as millions took to the Champs-Elysees in Paris chanting “Zizou, Zizou” and it came as little surprise when the player won France Football magazineâ€™s illustrious Golden Ball award the same year. Zidane recalled the frenetic fans lining the streets of Paris in delirious celebration, and said the images will “stay with me forever. People of all colours, regardless of skin, with only one goal: celebrating. There was only joy,” he said. “The French team is the most beautiful thing ever to happen to me. There can be no doubt.”1