CARDIFF (Reuters) - For a man who buried two headers to win a World Cup final and then struck one of the all-time great Champions League final winners Zinedine Zidane was probably doing himself a disservice when he said on Friday: “I didn’t score many goals.”
The Real Madrid manager had been asked whether he or Cristiano Ronaldo would be the star if they were playing in the same Madrid side and the Frenchman didn’t hesitate when he replied: “Cristiano...he scores goals.”
There is no doubting that, of course, as the Portuguese superstar has developed into one of the deadliest strikers in the game, a fact underlined by the incredible statistic of him scoring 40 or more goals every season for the last seven years.
Ronaldo will be Madrid’s most dangerous weapon in Saturday’s Champions League final against Juventus and Zidane did not try to hide the fact.
“Midfielders are important of course, everyone’s important, but I’ve been there in those big games when you are waiting for the strikers to score and of course goals are everything,” the he told a packed news conference at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
“I didn’t score too many -- I got some important ones -- but not many.”
The two he rammed home to help France beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final in Paris will of course always be the high point of his illustrious career but for Madrid fans it was his technically superb left-foot volley of a ball dropping from high in the Glasgow sky to beat Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League final four years later that shines brightest.
While Ronaldo, for years renowned as a tricky winger and provider, has evolved his game to focus much more on a centre-forward role, Zidane remained primarily the midfield fulcrum around which all his teams turned.
Considering that, and his relative lack of pace, his scoring record was actually very respectable.
In his 155 games for Real he scored 37 goals and got another 24 in 151 games for Juve. Including his earlier years at Cannes and Bordeaux he totalled 95 goals in 506 club appearances and chipped in an impressive 31 in 108 games for France -- a record many international strikers would be proud of.
Zidane was also confident there would be goals on Saturday and dismissed the widely-touted view of the game as Real’s effervescent attack against Juve’s rugged defence.
“They defend very well but nowadays they attack very well too,” he said of the Italian champions who reached Saturday’s final conceding three goals in 12 games.
“I‘m not sure if I can say they have their best team ever but they do have very good attacking players and I think it will be a very open game from both teams.”
Editing by Martyn Herman