Petit: quitting Real was Zidane being true to himself
Midfielders shared moment in French football history by scoring in 1998 World Cup final
Emmanuel Petit: “I think we are surprised at what [Zinedine Zidane] has done as a manager with Madrid”
“You saw the press conference,” says Emmanuel Petit referring to the former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane folding his tent, quietly walking away.
It was, he says, Zidane being truthful to Zidane. “A quiet, shy man” says Petit. “He never shouts. Never screams. He talks when you have to talk. That’s it.”
The two shared a moment in French football history scoring for France in the 1998 World Cup winning final against Brazil.
But there are few players like Zidane, few individuals like Zidane, says the former Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea player.
“I think we are surprised at what he has done as a manager with Madrid,” he says. “It’s amazing. But it’s exactly the way he was on the pitch when he was a player.
“He does things that human beings cannot do. Sometimes I have the feeling this guy is blessed by god. Everything he touches is gold. You cannot explain that. Why always him? It is simple. He has got the charisma. He’s got knowledge. He’s got intelligence.”
Perhaps now also an enigmatic mein. But that too adds to the mystery of the man, who the French media and public have already instilled in their hearts as the coach to succeed Didier Deschamps after the World Cup.
There is little Zidane can do to break the enduring love affair a French nation has had with him for 20 years. Not even the 2006 World Cup Final can blacken his name. Zidane saw red and was shown red after headbutting Italian midfielder Marco Materazzi in the chest.
“Its’ forgotten. It’s forgotten,” says Petit. “They love him. You have no idea how people love him in France. Even the French president said something about him. It’s like if he presented himself at the next presidential election it could be something very interesting.”
Petit knows his former captain Deschamps as he knows Zidane. The 1998 team meet every year in Paris, which because of the World Cup Deschamps will miss this year. They play exhibition matches and he says with an air of astonishment, “draw bigger crowds than the Rolling Stones.”
There were 37,000 in Nanterre. They don’t play in Stade de France because of a disagreement with the Federation. Petit shrugs a “just another French bust up” shrug.
A semi-final or better with France in Russia is what it will take to avoid job threatening blowback for Deschamps with Zidane now in the shadows.
“Didier knows bad things happen if he doesn’t rise to the expectation. He knows. He’s not stupid,” says Petit. “He said it yesterday. Didier said I know exactly what could happen after the World Cup if things don’t go the way I want.
“But if you have a French president talking about Zouzou, when you have the Prime Minister talking about you, when you have so many beautiful things said about you . . . ”
The 47-year-old raises his hands. “There are just a few players who can have this,” he says. The reality of being Zinedine Zidane.
Emmanuel Petit is a brand ambassador for Paddy Power and a columnist for Paddy Power News.