'I was the best player in the world' - Zidane reflects on 1998 Ballon d'Or win

By Sports Desk June 23, 2022

While believing 1998 was not his best year as a footballer, Zinedine Zidane has conceded he wanted to be recognised as the best player in the world.

Zidane was a talismanic figure on French soil as Les Bleus claimed their first World Cup, scoring two goals in the final against Brazil and propelling him to the Ballon d'Or.

Despite going on to scale further heights in football at both club and international level, it remained the only year he ever won the prestigious individual award.

Speaking to L'Equipe to mark his 50th birthday, Zidane revealed it is one of the few trophies he kept from an exceptional playing career, while admitting he particularly wanted the status in the game that accompanied it.

"Because I give everything, I am able to offer everything," he said. "I have almost nothing at home from my career. Two or three objects. I am not at all conservative or materialistic. When I want to see souvenirs, I go to Marseille [where his parents live]. I don't live with it.

"I was a little overconfident the weeks before the vote. I got a little fired up in a few interviews. I've never been one to say, 'I deserve this or that,' but with this Ballon d'Or, in 1998, I told myself a little bit. It wasn't really me but I really wanted to have it.

"I was the best player in the world. It does not happen often, and to me only once. There may be preferences in the votes but when you have it, you have it. You are the best player in the world at this time, and it's beautiful."

Zidane admitted to a dip in form with Juventus after the World Cup success, but believes 2000 was his best year as a footballer as he led an "unplayable" France to a second European Championship.

"After the World Cup, I was catastrophic," he said. "I no longer put one foot in front of the other. Even my friends told me: 'But it's your cousin who plays, it's your cousin who came back to Juve!' When you win a big title like the World Cup, you tend to slack off. And me, I really relaxed.

"It takes time. After January, I restarted. Very well in January and February then I injured myself. One hundred days. The season is over. Then I resumed for the 1999-2000 season with the victory at the Euro. There, I was at the top.

"For the next two or three seasons, I never let go. 1998 was my year but I think 1999-2000 was my greatest season. Not just for me. For our whole generation in blue. Our France team was exceptional. Euro 2000 remains the pinnacle of this generation. At the Euro, we were unplayable."

Related items

  • 'Maybe we can change that' - De Roon believes Atalanta can end Leverkusen unbeaten run 'Maybe we can change that' - De Roon believes Atalanta can end Leverkusen unbeaten run

    Atalanta captain Marten de Roon believes they have what it takes to end Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten season in the Europa League final.

    De Roon will not be available for La Dea in Dublin on Wednesday due to injury but has joined up with the squad to offer his support.

    Atalanta have had a memorable campaign, reaching their first European final and qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

    Leverkusen, meanwhile, claimed their first-ever Bundesliga title without losing a single game and are aiming to complete a treble.

    Despite coming up against a tough opponent, De Roon is confident that his side will be able to end their 61-year drought without a major trophy.

    "Every team is beatable. At the moment, [Leverkusen] seem unbeatable, but maybe we are the ones who can change that," he said in the pre-match press conference.

    "We have to believe in our philosophy, play attacking football and try to beat them. You don't win a trophy if you don't beat the best.

    "We have had a great campaign, and we fully deserve to be here. Both sides deserve to be playing this final. Let's see who will manage to lift the trophy.

    Atalanta narrowly missed out in the Coppa Italia final to Juventus earlier this month, and Gian Piero Gasperini is now preparing to manage his first-ever European final.

    The Italian praised Leverkusen but stressed the belief he has in his own team after an impressive campaign.

    He said: "We are aware that we are facing a great team. We know that they are undefeated, and we know that they have had an amazing season.

    "Our journey, however, was also very good as we beat very strong teams to reach the final, and we also have belief.

    "Leverkusen are a complete team; extremely organised. They are versatile, they can defend and recover the ball well.

    "The results they have achieved this season are not an accident. Certainly, small details can make the difference in a final. We have to respect them and try to adapt quickly to the opponents we are facing."

  • Alonso: Self-confidence is driving Leverkusen forward Alonso: Self-confidence is driving Leverkusen forward

    Xabi Alonso says Bayer Leverkusen are driven by self-confidence in their ability to win games ahead of the Europa League final.

    Leverkusen are chasing the second trophy in a potential treble against Atalanta in Dublin on Wednesday, with the DFB-Pokal final against Kaiserslautern to follow on Saturday.

    The Bundesliga champions became the first German team to go unbeaten on their way to the title and are currently on a 51-match run without defeat in all competitions.

    Alonso is taking charge of his first European final as a manager, but he believes his team will draw on the experience they have already gained this season.

    "Our self-confidence keeps driving us on. We know that we can produce goals until the final minute," he said in his pre-match press conference. "That's a huge development that the team has made this season.

    "From the start of the campaign, we believed in our brand of football and that's right at the heart of this successful run.

    "We'll prepare like we did for all the games before. We haven't lost in 51 games, so my boys know how to adapt to different situations. That also applies to the final.

    "What matters above all tomorrow is mentality. We have a game plan, but the players still have that wonderful atmosphere from the title celebrations on Saturday, and we want to tap into that."

    Alonso is the youngest coach to manage a men’s European final since Roberto Di Matteo oversaw Chelsea’s Champions League victory in 2012.

    He will also become just the fourth person to play in and manage a major European final this century after also playing in the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals with Liverpool.

    Reflecting on his time at Leverkusen, Alonso said: "I was so young in this coach career, so when I was offered the Leverkusen job, so it was 'let's go, let's see what happens'.

    "In one year and a half, so much has happened; it has been a great experience, and it has only been a year and a half, but we have made so many right decisions.

    "I think we have great chemistry.  The mentality we have shown throughout the year has been fantastic. I am really enjoying it."

  • Liverpool have to expect change under Slot, says Zenden Liverpool have to expect change under Slot, says Zenden

    Former Liverpool midfielder Boudewijn Zenden admits there will be a change for the Reds under Arne Slot but says the club should be ready to buy into his philosophy.

    Liverpool confirmed on Monday that Slot would take over from Jurgen Klopp, who managed his final game at Anfield against Wolves on Sunday.

    The Dutchman had already announced that he would be taking the job in a press conference, with Klopp then leading a chant of Slot’s name in his farewell speech.

    Slot has reportedly signed a three-year deal and will officially take charge from June 1.

    Asked if the former Feyenoord manager can avoid a painful transition when he begins his new job, Zenden said Liverpool need to be prepared for any outcome.

    "Well, let's put it this way. Someone said life is like a box of chocolates, you know, you never know what you're going to get until it's there, and it's the same with Slot," he told Stats Perform.

    "You know, there's going to be a change. You never know what the change will be like. As I said, there will be a change, that's for sure.

    "For example, if you look at Arsenal, what I admire about the Arsenal people in charge is that the beginning of Arteta at Arsenal. I'm sure you remember well, it was painful for the fans, for the people that had the love for the Gunners.

    "They stuck to Arteta, they stuck to his vision, his way of playing, and gradually the team that he built, with his philosophy and the players that he took in, that go with that philosophy.

    "For me, it's a huge pleasure to see that if you stick to someone, if you stick to the manager, and you're convinced of his ideas, that you see where this will get you.

    "There will be a change. Am I afraid? Well, of course, I'm not afraid, concerned, no, I think you have to just live with it.

    "I'm sure in Liverpool, they'll keep their head up high when they go through that storm if it's there. But no, it's going to be a change, of course, but when Slot takes over, I hope that it'll go down well."

    Slot led Feyenoord to the Eredivisie title in 2023 and was named Eredivisie Manager of the Year on two occasions, while also winning the KNVB Beker this season.

    While some have questioned if Slot will be able to deal with the big stars at the club, Zenden does not believe that will be a problem.

    "Yeah, but listen, it is what it is. Of course, Feyenoord this is nowhere near the magnitude of Liverpool. Feyenoord is a big club, but Liverpool is a massive club. So, there's certainly the expectations that come with the club," he added.

    "Also, when you are in a big club, there are big players with big egos and I think what could help Slot as well is that he used to play himself.

    "He knows what's happening in the mind of a player, he knows what happens in the dressing room. So, he knows a little bit about how these things can be done can work out how it works out, but it definitely will be interesting to see how he deals with these different situations.

    "I think Jurgen Klopp over the years also had a few, I'm not going say run-ins, but of course, there's been issues, but they've all been solved and taken care of, one or the other."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.