It’s time to go down memory lane to one of the most memorable times in recent football history: the Zinedine Zidane vs Ronaldo Nazario rivalry.
These legends of the game really need no introduction, either of them could easily crack the Top 10 list of some of the most prestigious publications in the world.
Zinedine Zidane is considered the best French footballer in football history, even above Michel Platini due to the impressive career he had between the ’90s and the early ‘2000s.
Fortunately for everybody during the same period in which ‘Zizou’ graced us with his presence in world football, the French player had a tremendous opponent in Ronaldo Nazario.
Their rivalry started in Italy when the Brazilian player moved from FC Barcelona to Internazionale Milano, Zidane was already a well-established figure for Juventus and the Vecchia Signora reigned supreme in Serie A during that period of time.
The Frenchman did win most of the confrontations between the two, but this doesn’t mean that they didn’t respect the hell out of each other when they both played at the top of their abilities.
Heading into the 1998 World Cup he was the world's in-form striker. En-route to the final, he scored 4 and assisted 3.
Hours before the final he suffered a health scare, clearly not fit to play.
Ronaldo later reflected: "We lost the World Cup but I won another cup – my life." pic.twitter.com/IGlGiK6sWR
— FourFourTweet (@FourFourTweet) January 16, 2019
Zidane’s first great round against Ronaldo came when their very special rivalry translated from their clubs to their national teams, the stage was the 1998 World Cup final in France between Les Bleus and the Brazil National Team.
Ronaldo didn’t have a chance to play to the full extent of his abilities that evening, the striker suffered a physical problem one day before and he played at 50% of his capabilities.
Zidane wasn’t going to let this unique opportunity escape him, he became the final’s hero after scoring two headers that gave France their first-ever World Cup title and transformed Zinedine Zidane into the world-class player that Ronaldo already was back then.
After that match that both players lived, they formed an unbreakable bond that they still have to this day and they haven’t let their on-the-pitch rivalry affect that.
After Zidane met all the success with his national team between 1998 and 2000, Ronaldo Nazario suffered that knee injury that kept him out of commission for the better part of two years and he vowed to return to the highest level by the 2002 World Cup.
🎥 La inolvidable exhibición de Zidane ante el Brasil de Ronaldo en 2006 😍 pic.twitter.com/5pHOSmQnDD
— AS Chile (@ASChile) June 7, 2018
Unfortunately for Ronaldo, Zidane wasn’t at his best after winning the 2002 Champions League for Real Madrid and his French side didn’t perform as expected during that competition.
Both players shared the dressing room at Real Madrid and they hardly ever played against each other on the international stage.
The last great match in which these two greats met was at the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals between France and Brazil, this was another memorable performance by Zinedine Zidane at his peak.
Both players made history on that tournament though, Ronaldo became the all-time top scorer in World Cup history and Zidane played his second World Cup final for France. When you ask either of both players who their greatest rival in football was, they will both speak each other’s name.
However, they value their friendship above any type of rivalry they had during their career and that’s what makes this one so special.
Unlike other rivalries that we are going to talk about on this series, the one between Zidane and Ronaldo will always be remembered as good-spirited but still very exciting for anyone who witnessed it.
What do you think about Zidane and Ronaldo’s rivalry in football history? Please share your opinion in the comment section down below.