Zidane to retire after World Cup

April 25, 2006

PARIS -- French midfielder Zinedine Zidane plans to retire after the World Cup in Germany.

Zidane helped France win the 1998 World Cup on home soil and the 2000 European Championship. Zidane, who plays for Real Madrid, was FIFA's World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000 and 2003.

"I am stopping for good and I am stopping everything," Zidane told Canal Plus television on Tuesday. "Most of all, I think it's my body. I told myself that I can't do another year."

Zidane, who had one year left on his contract with Madrid, will turn 34 during the June 9-July 9 World Cup.

Zidane led Madrid to the 2002 Champions League title, but noted that the star-studded team hasn't won a trophy in the past two years.

"I don't want to start a third year knowing that I won't be able to do better than I've done in the past," Zidane said. "I'm getting to an age where it is getting harder and harder."

Zidane wants to focus on the World Cup, which he called his "last objective." He also said he wanted to give Madrid time to find a replacement.

"This is something that has been running around in my head for quite a while," Zidane said of his decision, which topped evening television news shows. "I wanted everyone to know so that I wouldn't be asked the 100 questions one gets when there are doubts."

Nicknamed "Zizou," he retired from the French team after it lost to Greece in the quarterfinals of the 2004 European Championship. But along with Claude Makelele and Lilian Thuram, Zidane returned to help France qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

Zidane, who has scored 28 goals in 99 games for France, also played for Bordeaux and Cannes. Barring injury, Zidane will join Didier Deschamps, Thuram and 116-cap record holder Marcel Desailly as the only men to play 100 times for France. That milestone could occur against visiting Mexico on May 27.

Zidane scored on two headers in the 3-0 World Cup final win over Brazil at Stade de France in 1998. In 2000, he starred again as France won its second European title -- scoring a penalty to beat Portugal in the semifinals.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press