When Real Madrid bid farewell to Zinedine Zidane | On This Day
- Real Madrid watched Zinedine Zidane play his last game at the Bernané on this day 14 years ago
- He went on to win nine trophies and counting as manager of the club
Zinedine Zidane is one of the few football figures in the world who need little-to-no introduction. Real Madrid's iconic Frenchman has done it all — he won the FIFA World Cup in 1998, and the UEFA European Championship in 2000 with France, the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid in 2001/02 and also won a Ballon d'Or in 1998.
If that wasn't enough accolades to boast of, Zinedine Zidane went on to become a coach, beginning with the Real Madrid Castilla side. Due to an unfortunate series of events that saw then-head coach Rafa Benitez sacked from the position of head coach, the Frenchman was brought in on an interim basis.
It was a decision that was presumably made keeping the immediate future in mind. However, it turned out to be a call that literally revitalized every soul in the Santiago Bernabéu. What followed was nothing short of a stunning list of achievements, some of them even being unprecedented.
It's difficult to decide if he was a better player or a better manager. Regardless of what the answer is, as a player, he was most certainly one of Real Madrid, France, and football's greatest ever, if not the best.
The Bernabéu's farewell for one of Real Madrid's greatest
The stadium was adorned with 'Zidane 5' signs with the words 'Thank you, Zidane.' The players wore a badge that read 'Zidane 2001-2006'. The stage was set for the man that Alfredo di Stefano refers to as the 'Maestro' to play his last game before his home crowd.
It was on this day 14 years ago that Zinedine Zidane played his last match for Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu. It's needless to say that he was received by a roaring ovation from one of the most historic venues of the sport as he was subbed off in the dying embers of the game.
Real Madrid played out an entertaining 3-3 draw against Villarreal, in which the magical Frenchman scored his last goal on his home turf.
The crowd was anxious for their maestro to score and even showed their disapproval of David Beckham setting himself up for a free-kick, which could've been potentially hit by Zidane instead.
The goal wasn't of the usual breathtaking fashion that Zidane is accustomed to, but a soft header across the goal from an inch-perfect Beckham cross was enough to send the adoring Bernabéu faithful into a frenzy.
A teary Zidane walked back on after full-time to soak up the beautiful sight of a grateful Bernabéu. He bowed out like the true legend that he was, is, and will remain.
Zinedine Zidane went on to win the Champions League in the very same season as he was appointed as head coach. The following season, he helped Real Madrid mount a title charge and won them their first title in over half a decade, when they won it under José Mourinho. Not only that, but he also guided them to a second Champions League success in two years.
The third season, when Real Madrid arguably appeared the weakest out of the three UCL campaigns Zidane has overseen, they turned it around and won the competitions again. Three times in three years — a feat that no club or manager has achieved in the Champions League era.
Zidane was, simply put, a remarkable player — perhaps the type that you only see once or twice in a lifetime. Whether he would go on to have an even more remarkable legacy as a manager is a question that only time can answer.