One of the true masters of the game, Zinedine Zidane, confirmed today that he will retire after the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
“Today I am making the decision to leave it all behind,” Zidane said at a press conference today.
The Real Madrid star, who turns 34 during the World Cup, said he wanted to make his intentions known now so that that Real Madrid could begin to plan for next season. “I wanted to give ample notice so that Real Madrid has time to look for my replacement, other players, if that’s what they want,” he said. “That is why I’m announcing it now and not after the World Cup. It’s the least I can give Real Madrid. This Club has given me a lot and deserves this courtesy.”
The man, whose magnificent volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the finals of the 2002 Champions League allowed Real Madrid to win their ninth such title, admitted has has felt the effects of age.
“In these last two years I haven’t felt at ease, I haven’t played the way I wanted,” he said. “I’m not 25 anymore. Each day it’s more difficult, I have more pains. I don’t want to be here just for the sake of being here. I’ve always done everything to win and I’m not doing that lately.”
Zidane scored two goals in leading France to the World Cup title in 1998. An injury limited Zidane’s appearances at the 2002 World Cup, when France failed to get out of the group stage.
“To finish my career after the World Cup is something very special,” said the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year. “I’m going to be highly motivated, I just hope I don’t have any physical problems.”
Real Madrid’s final home match this season comes against Villarreal on May 7.
Zinedine Zidane Factfile:
Born: June 23, 1972 in Marseille, France
Clubs: AS Cannes (1988-92), Girondins Bordeaux (1992-96), Juventus (1996-2001), Real Madrid (2001-2006)