Zinedine Zidane: Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham in agreement over Real Madrid icon

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ZINEDINE ZIDANE AT 50: The Ballon d’Or winner is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and is the only manager to win three consecutive European Cups

Football icon Zinedine Zidane celebrated his 50th birthday on Thursday
Football icon Zinedine Zidane celebrated his 50th birthday on Thursday

Zinedine Zidane celebrated his 50th birthday on Thursday and the Frenchman has picked up many admirers on his way to a half century.

After all, he is one of the greatest footballers and managers of all time. Zidane won the World Cup, Euros, Champions League, La Liga, Serie A (twice) and the Ballon d’Or during his glittering playing career. As a boss, he lifted three consecutive European Cups at Real Madrid – becoming the only coach in history to achieve the feat.

Here, Mirror Football takes a look at what footballing legends have said about Zidane over the years – including a tribute from the one and only Pele.

Alfredo Di Stefano

Few are compared to the late, great Alfredo Di Stefano. The five-time European Cup winner, who passed away in 2014, was Real Madrid’s honorary president for 14 years and would greet players, including Zidane, when they signed for the club.

The Frenchman joined Di Stefano in the pantheon of Real legends following his five-year stint as a player – scoring a famous volley in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen in May 2002 – and his two trophy-laden spells as a manager.

“The player that most reminds me of myself is Zidane,” Di Stefano once said. “He runs in the same way and he uses some very similar tricks. I was a little quicker than he is. He dominated possession, he has an eye for the spectacular and he has a glove in his foot.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic







Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a fan of Zinedine Zidane
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The legendary Swede doesn’t often bow down to greatness, but he was more than happy to compliment Zidane when asked for his opinion. “When Zidane stepped onto the pitch, the 10 other guys just got suddenly better,” Ibrahimovic said.

“It is that simple. It was magic. He was a unique player. He was more than good, he came from another planet. His team-mates became like him when he was on the pitch.”

Ronaldinho

Brazilian icon Ronaldinho is one of the most entertaining players ever to grace the pitch and it appears he was inspired to reach the top by Zidane.

“Zidane is one of the best footballers of all time, one of my idols,” said the Ballon d’Or winner. “He had such elegance and grace, a wonderful touch and superb vision.”

Pele







Pele believes Zidane is the greatest player of his generation
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Some critics regard three-time World Cup winner Pele as the greatest player of all time. He was certainly the dominant force of his generation between the mid-fifties and mid-seventies and believes Zidane was the star of the late-nineties and early-noughties.

“Zidane is the master,” Pele once said. “Over the past 10 years there’s been no-one like him, he has been the best player in the world.”

David Beckham

The former England captain played alongside Zidane at Real Madrid for three years and knows exactly how good he was. Beckham was recently asked by Gary Neville to name the greatest footballer he played alongside during his career.

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His answer? Zidane, of course. “To train with Zidane for three years was a dream,” Beckham declared. “For me, he is the greatest player of all time.”

Cristiano Ronaldo







Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed the most successful period of his career under Zidane
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Zidane wasn’t just a genius on the pitch. He got the best out of Ronaldo during his first spell in charge of Real between January 2016 and May 2018 – allowing him to score 137 club goals in three seasons. He also won the Ballon d’Or twice during that period.

“The confidence that a player needs doesn’t just come from himself but also from the players around him and the coach,” Ronaldo said. “You need to feel like you are an important part of the group and Zidane made me feel special.

“He helped me a lot. I already had a lot of respect for him but working with him made me admire him more. That’s because of what he’s like as a person, how he talks, how he led the team and how he treated me .

“He’d tell me, ‘Cris, relax and just play your game – you are the one who is going to make the difference.’ He was always honest with me and that’s why I’ll always have a real affection for him. “

Best of the rest







Sir Alex Ferguson has been very complimentary of Zidane in the past
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Franz Beckenbauer: “Zidane is unique. The ball flows with him. He is more like a dancer than a football player.”

Marco van Basten: “He played like a ‘general’ in midfield. He has technique, tricks, passing and also has an ability to score some of the best goals.”

Sir Alex Ferguson: “Give me 10 planks of wood and Zidane and I will win the Champions League.”

Roberto Carlos: “He is the best player I’ve seen. Supporters arrived earlier at the Bernabeu just to see him warm-up.”

Thierry Henry: “In France, everybody realized that God exists and that he is back in the French international team. His name is Zinedine Zidane.”

Franco Baresi“He was as elegant as a dancer – he even used the soles of his boots efficiently. Everything was easy for him; he made such movements that if I tried to copy them I would break my legs.”

Paul Scholes: “To see Zidane in action was to witness poetry in motion. The skills, the vision, the goals… when he was at his peak, winning the World Cup, the Champions League and all the rest, he was unquestionably the finest player on the planet. ”

Gary Lineker: “The most elegant footballer I have seen.”

Marcel Desailly“A true artist. What he could do with the ball was incredible. Only Maradona could do the same. Zizou was also a player capable of rising to the occasion at important moments, and deciding games.”

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