'I retire after World Cup - and that's final' - Zidane

April 25, 2006

PARIS, April 25 (Reuters) - Zinedine Zidane said on Tuesday he would retire after the World Cup finals in Germany.

'It's my decision and it's final,' the France and Real Madrid playmaker told French television channel Canal+.

The 33-year-old, who led France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, had hinted recently he was ready to quit.

Zidane became the world's most expensive footballer when Real signed him from Juventus for £33million in 2001 and he scored a superb winner to earn Real their ninth European Cup in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen.

But injuries and inconsistency have dogged him over the last two seasons and, although he still has another year left on his contract with Real, he decided to call it a day.

'I have to listen to my body and I cannot carry on for another year,' said Zidane, who cited Real's poor results as one of the reasons for his decision.

'It might seem a bit strange to announce it now, two weeks before the end of the championship but it's a decision I've been thinking about carefully and I had to take it before the World Cup,' he said.

'In the last two years the results have eluded us. When you don't reach your goals you ask yourself questions. I know I can't do better than what I have already done and at my age, it's getting more and more difficult. I didn't want to experience another year like the ones I've been through.'

Zidane had been expected to announce his decision at a news conference called for Wednesday in Madrid.

The gifted son of Algerian immigrants said after France's early exit from Euro 2004 that he was retiring from international football.

In August last year, with France struggling to qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany, he decided after all that he could not let down the side he inspired for a decade.

Voted European player of the year in 1998 and world player of the year in 1999, 2000 and 2003, he came second only to Michel Platini as France's most respected footballer.

Zidane, who made thousands weep for joy after the 1998 World Cup final, is a man of few words who is happy to let his football do the talking.

He is also respected for the money and time he discreetly spends for charity, especially in helping handicapped children.

Zidane, who has never forgotten his humble roots, will not mind being out of the limelight once his playing days are over.

For the moment, though, he wants to savour the last stretch of his glittering career.

'I wanted everybody to know before the World Cup, to dedicate myself fully to it,' he said on Tuesday.

'It's my last goal and I don't want to think about anything else.'