Zizou and Paolo: A Tribute to Two of the Greatest Ever

Taken from The Red and Black Forum

I was supposed to write this post on Zidane’s birthday, which passed a few days ago. It was meant to be a tribute, dedication, and meaningful (I hope) piece on one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game.

A player who I became very fond of, ever since I was a young, six year old just beginning to get to grips with the beautiful game. The year was 1998. A year which launched a 26 year old, Zinedine Zidane to absolute stardom becoming- in the process- a hero, role model, symbol to his nation and to millions, like me, around the world.

The Scientist, the maestro, the genius with magical feet, who made football seems so effortless, gliding and breezing his way past players, like he was on thin ice. He was a conductor, the heartbeat and soul for whichever team he played for; club or for his national team. Zizou, as he’s fondly called, is the player who I first uttered his name, a player who’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with this bloody sport we all call football. 

The skills, control, poise, finesse, and outright brilliance that he oozed, was a joy to behold and cherish. Not only was this man bloody and outrageously brilliant, but he was just as successful. Zizou was a three time World Player of the Year, one time Ballon d’Or winner and has won countless of titles which include that memorable 1998 World Cup win in his homeland of France, as well as leading the French to European glory in 2000 where he was named the tournament’s best player. 

He has won everything in football even at club level, with the most memorable- arguably- THAT stunning volley against Bayer Leverkusen that led to Real Madrid’s record ninth Champions League triumph. 

One of the greatest goals ever, displaying his flawless and outrageous technique that gained him many admirers, who still idolize him to this day.

Now to a player remembered for his flawless, seamless defending and superb leadership throughout his 20+ years as a player, where he captained for both club and country- AC Milan and Italy, respectively. 

The “Il Capitano” is highly regarded for his longevity and ability to maintain his high standards of play throughout his career, even as he got older. He made the art of defending look so easy and effortless, just like Zizou when creating chances and making his opponents look foolish. 

Maldini, like Zidane, won numerous titles and honors especially at club level; a whopping 5 time Champions League winner with his long serving club, AC Milan. Unfortunately, he didn’t get much luck with the Azzurri gaining two runners-up positions in the 1994 World Cup and European Championship in 2000- losing to both Brazil and France on penalties and via a golden goal- respectively.

One of the finest defenders of all time. Failure to win at least a Ballon d’Or during his illustrious and fantastic career, truly remains one of football’s greatest mysteries. He’s admired and respected by many, and I wish him a joyous and happy birthday.

Both of these players touched and inspired many with their ability and character. The word ‘legend’ is a term frequently misused, but these two men fully deserve that acclaim.

Taken from Xtra Time

Zizou and Paolo, take a bow. You two will never be forgotten, and will long live in the memory of anyone who was lucky enough to witness you two, grace the pitch and bring a smile to our faces. 

Written by Omar Almasri
Follow me on Twitter @OAlmasri or @OPosts

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