Zinedine Zidane has produced many moments of magic on the football pitch during his glorious footballing career.
On 15 May 2002, Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen played out the Champions League final at Scotland’s Hampden Park and of course it was ‘Zizou’ who made the difference. At the time, Bayer had a talented crop of players and had knocked out both Liverpool and Manchester United in knockout rounds on their way to the final.
Real went 1-0 up in Glasgow when a quick throw-in led to talisman Raul nipping behind and seeing his left-footed finish trickle past Jorg Butt. They responded quickly to going a goal down when defender Lucio, who went on to win the World Cup two months later, rose highest to head home the equalizer from Bernd Schneider’s teasing delivery in the 13th minute.
To their credit, Leverkusen, without one of their star players in Brazilian Ze Roberto, matched Real Madrid. Unfortunately coming up against a young Iker Casillas, who made two excellent saves late on to deny Carsten Ramelow.
But the game belonged to Zidane. On the stroke of half-time, the Frenchman produced a moment that would be remembered for years to come.
An attack down the left saw left-back Roberto Carlos manage to send in a lofted ball for Zidane on the edge of the area. Your average player would have tried to touch the ball down, but average is not a word that comes in the same sentence as Zinedine Zidane.
The Los Blancos talisman swiveled his body shape and left fly with a stunning left-footed volley that rippled into the net. Butt in the Leverkusen goal was at fault for the opener but there was nothing he could do to deny Zidane in this instance. The technique was just exceptional. It was a goal we’ve all attempted to score on the school playground, but there was no way anyone could come up with the grace and elegance that Zizou displayed.
The goal proved to be the difference between the two sides, and ultimately handed Real their ninth European Cup.
What a player. What a moment. The greatest goal in Champions League history? Quite possibly.