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ZZ off - it's no big deal

Zidane will be entertaining the fans at the Santiago Bernarbeu after his £50m switch to Real Madrid.
Zinedine Zidane has become the world's most expensive player of all time after he completed his £50m switch to Real Madrid. Anotnio Labate looks into the details of the move and why the Italian outfit decided to let him go.

Real wanted Zidane and Zidane wanted Real. This is the simplicity of the situation which turned the Frenchman into the world's most expensive footballer of all time. It was a move that was on the cards for some time once everybody realised that the Spanish side were seriously willing to part with close on £50m.

"It's an honour for me to be able to wear this shirt", said a slightly shy Zidane as he held up the white No 5 top that will adorn his back for the next four years. "I was becoming a bit impatient waiting for this great moment to arrive. I've spent five years with Juventus, but this is the best time for me to play in Spain."

Real President Perez, who last summer had to break the transfer record to land Luis Figo from Barcelona, was delighted to have finally signed the player he had been promising the fans for some time. "Zidane is one of those players born to play for Real Madrid," he said. "In the year of our centenary we aim to be even more spectacular. Zidane, we thank you for accepting our offer, you will continue to write this club's history."

Admittedly Real's offer wasn't too difficult to accept - both for the player and his now former club. The Madrid side will pay Juventus close to £47m of which £2m will be in interest alone accumulated over the three-year payment schedule. The former Bordeaux midfielder will net himself just over £3.5m a season after tax for the next four years and has an option for a fifth season included. And should someone want to buy Zidane from his new club, the Spaniards have included a buy-out clause of £112m.

Zinedine will be chasing his long sought-after Champions League trophy with Real

"As everyone knows, what may at first appear expensive is often cheap in the long run," defended Perez. "As well as being profitable from sporting terms I have absolutely no doubt that Zidane will be profitable from the economic perspective." Within an hour of his presentation the club had sold over 200 replica shirts with Zidane and the No 5 blazoned on the back. Even though money was obviously an incentive for Zidane, there were other factors to why the Frenchman wanted to turn his back on Italian football. "I'm delighted to have signed because I think this is the best club in the world," he said in from of 350 quote-hungry journalists. "Here I can win the European titles that have eluded me in Turin and I can finally play at the Santiago Bernarbeu for the first time in my life."

The lack of success that Juventus have endured in the last three seasons hit Zidane hard after his triumphs with France in the 1998 World Cup and last summer's European Championship. When Roma moved comfortably clear of Juventus in the title race last season Zidane hinted that if they didn't win the title then it was time for the club to make changes. Zizou already seemed to have one eye on Spain. His Spanish wife had two. Veronique was not overly keen of foggy Turin and the 29-year-old was desperate to realise his dream of winning the European Cup - the only trophy on which he has yet to lay his successful hands.

He'd come close with Juventus in the past after they were beaten finalists in two successive seasons when they lost to Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Real themselves a year after. The odd thing is that had he stayed in Turin Zidane still may have realised his dream as the club have added some major reinforcements the season in Gigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram, Pavel Nedved and possibly Christian Vieri.

But the fact is that he felt it was time to move on and so did Juventus. Zidane later revealed that the initial plan was to leave for Real next summer before the Old Lady of Italian football had a re-think. "Everything happened so quickly," revealed Zizou. "Because it wasn't supposed to happen this year. Juventus reflected on the situation and changed their minds."

Zizou was set to join Real after another season at Juve when the Turin club decided to release him right away

So why did Juventus release Zidane to a potential Champions' League rival? Luciano Moggi provided some of the answers. "After the last game of the season we had words about his future," revealed Juve's general manager and transfer guru. " Zidane wanted to stay with us for one more season but wanted a deal on his conditions - a deal that would have seen Zizou join Real next season but for a reduced price.

"But here at Juventus it is the club who negotiate the deals and not the players. We considered the fact that he wanted to go to Spain and we went ahead with it. He was asking for a different agreement, evidently agreed upon with Real, but equal to a third of what we wanted. So by letting him go, both parties are satisfied."

It seemed pointless for Juve to keep the player knowing that he had his mind on his future destination. If they really wanted to keep him they could have, but these are changing times in Turin. The club are taking an alternative route into the future after sacking Carlo Ancelotti for the deadly sin of finishing second in Serie A for two consecutive seasons, suddenly splashing out on some quality players. Parma netted £32m for Buffon and £23m for Thuram. Lazio received close to £25m for Nedved. The only major income was from Pippo Inzaghi's move, but even then Juve agreed a player plus cash deal in order to get rid of the striker with young Cristian Zenoni coming in from the San Siro. The money offered by Real for a 29-year-old midfielder in the end became too tempting. Let's not forget that the Bianconeri signed Zidane from Bordeaux during Euro '96 for somewhere around £3.2m. Selling him for over 10 times that amount is a great deal - even if you're sacrificing one of the world's best players. Once over the playful banter of "if they give us Figo plus cash we can talk," Moggi and Co met with Real officials in Switzerland to iron out the deal. Within days Zidane was being secretly flown in to Madrid to undergo a medical. It was all wrapped up in 72 hours.

Zidane has repeatedly been accused of not producing his best for Juve as he has for his national team

Zidane may have flown the nest, but Juventus and Italian football will undoubtedly live without him. The fans haven't taken to the streets to protest against the sale because they know that the club can survive and even strive to greater things. On his day there is no doubt that Zizou was the best around, but when he didn't feel like it he was largely anonymous. And let's not forget that Juventus have sold similarly high profile players in recent times but still continued to be as competitive as their history has suggested. In the mid-1990s they sold Roberto Baggio because they had faith in Alex Del Piero. Maybe it's down to Juve's true No 10 to help the club fill Zidane's considerable class at the Delle Alpi.

The only real reaction in Turin was one of disappointment regarding Zidane's behaviour. He only mentioned in passing his time spent in Italy, an act seen as disrespectful by tifosi the length and breadth of the country. The Turin daily Tuttosport, which was bombarded with letters about his loss of Juventus memories, wrote: "Zidane flees Turin - five years of Juve washed away in a second."


This article is entitled "ZZ off - it's no big deal", taken from Football Italia, issue 8, August 2001. The images are not original.

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» Football Italia
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