“It’s a shame we couldn’t play together” was one of the very first things French footballing legend Zinedine Zidane confessed to Lionel Messi, and the Argentine star agreed. It was during an interview they did for German sportswear brand Adidas, which sponsors both of them. Here are some of the highlights of the two icons meeting.
On Maradona and the number 10 shirt
“For us Argentines, 10 is a special number, because it instantly evokes [Argentine football legend Diego] Maradona,” said Messi. “All of us who played football as kids wanted to be like him. None of us got there, but that was our dream.
“Even to people who never saw him play, he’s our reference, our hero. He’s in every generation. My kids know about him and they never saw him. He’s very important to us because of how he represented Argentina and the Argentine people”
“Maradona was a hero to everyone,” said Zidane, “not just in Argentina. We all wanted to wear number 10, he was a leader.”
“I don’t know if the 10 is as important as it used to be,” said Messi. “Football changed a lot. The way it’s played now, that kind of player can’t find a place. There aren’t many left in the style of the typical 10 in Argentine football, like [Román] Riquelme or [Pablo] Aimar.
“The ‘Number 10’ is being lost,” said Zidane. “They have to have some magic. They are the leader of the team, they have to create. They have to see things before they happen, like you do. Before you get the ball you know what you have to do, and very few have that.”
On their childhood heroes
“My hero was [Uruguayan striker] Enzo Francescoli,” said Zidane, “who used to play for Marseille. There weren’t many foreign players in France when he arrived. So when I saw him play I knew it was something different. He was a very elegant player, how he controlled the ball, and I wanted to do the same.”
“I saw him when he used to play for River,” said Messi. “He’s a legend there. I loved watching Aimar. He played in River with Francescoli. I loved the way he played. Pablo was a person I admired a lot, when I was a kid I liked him.”
On each other
“He’s magic,” said Zidane about Messi. “Everyone loves players who are different, but none are like him. Leo is an example for everyone. He makes people dream with what he does on the pitch.”
“For me, he is one of the greatest in history”, said Messi about Zidane. “I cheered against him when he played for Madrid because I was at Barcelona, but great players are above your club or your country. He was always a different kind of player, very elegant, he had everything.”
On never giving up
“You can’t always win. Difficult moments are part of life,” said Messi. “You have to get up and try again, you have to always give your all to try to achieve it. If you do, then the result isn’t important.”
“I don’t regret anything. I was lucky to have many good moments. Maybe the thorn of the 2014 World Cup final… but I got a redo with the 2022 World Cup. Scoring a goal in the World Cup is the best feeling there is, we can both attest to that.”