While believing 1998 was not his best year as a footballer, Zinedine Zidane has conceded he wanted to be recognised as the best player in the world.

Zidane was a talismanic figure on French soil as Les Bleus claimed their first World Cup, scoring two goals in the final against Brazil and propelling him to the Ballon d'Or.

Despite going on to scale further heights in football at both club and international level, it remained the only year he ever won the prestigious individual award.

Speaking to L'Equipe to mark his 50th birthday, Zidane revealed it is one of the few trophies he kept from an exceptional playing career, while admitting he particularly wanted the status in the game that accompanied it.

"Because I give everything, I am able to offer everything," he said. "I have almost nothing at home from my career. Two or three objects. I am not at all conservative or materialistic. When I want to see souvenirs, I go to Marseille [where his parents live]. I don't live with it.

"I was a little overconfident the weeks before the vote. I got a little fired up in a few interviews. I've never been one to say, 'I deserve this or that,' but with this Ballon d'Or, in 1998, I told myself a little bit. It wasn't really me but I really wanted to have it.

"I was the best player in the world. It does not happen often, and to me only once. There may be preferences in the votes but when you have it, you have it. You are the best player in the world at this time, and it's beautiful."

Zidane admitted to a dip in form with Juventus after the World Cup success, but believes 2000 was his best year as a footballer as he led an "unplayable" France to a second European Championship.

"After the World Cup, I was catastrophic," he said. "I no longer put one foot in front of the other. Even my friends told me: 'But it's your cousin who plays, it's your cousin who came back to Juve!' When you win a big title like the World Cup, you tend to slack off. And me, I really relaxed.

"It takes time. After January, I restarted. Very well in January and February then I injured myself. One hundred days. The season is over. Then I resumed for the 1999-2000 season with the victory at the Euro. There, I was at the top.

"For the next two or three seasons, I never let go. 1998 was my year but I think 1999-2000 was my greatest season. Not just for me. For our whole generation in blue. Our France team was exceptional. Euro 2000 remains the pinnacle of this generation. At the Euro, we were unplayable."

Zinedine Zidane has not ruled out taking over as head coach at Paris Saint-Germain or following Didier Deschamps as France's national team coach, amid growing speculation over his future.

Mauricio Pochettino's departure from PSG has not yet been finalised, but reports have linked both Zidane and Nice boss Christophe Galtier to the job, with club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi even confirming talks with the latter.

Stepping down in 2021 as a two-time LaLiga and three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, Zidane would assume either role as a highly-decorated coach, having also enjoyed an exceptional playing career.

In an interview with L'Equipe to mark his 50th birthday, the Marseille native indicated he would not turn down the opportunity to coach the fiercest rivals of the club he supported as a child, citing a lack of realistic options in both personal and logistical senses.

"Never say never," he said. "Especially when you are a coach today, but the question is moot. This is absolutely irrelevant. When I was a player, I had a choice, almost every club.

"As a coach, there are not 50 clubs where I can go. There are two or three possibilities. This is the current reality. As coaches, we have much less choice than players. If I go back to a club, it's to win. I say this with all modesty. That's why I can't go anywhere. For other reasons, too, I might not be able to go everywhere.

"The language, for example. Some conditions make things more difficult. When I'm asked: 'Do you want to go to Manchester?' I understand English but I don't fully master it. I know there are coaches who go to clubs without speaking the language, but I work differently. To win, many elements come into play."

From leading France to the World Cup in 1998 as a player – propelling him to his sole Ballon d'Or award in the process – to his straight red card in the 2006 World Cup final after headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi, Zidane experienced both the highs and lows with Les Bleus.

Punctuating his stellar international career with that sending off in Berlin leaves him with unfinished business at international level, but Zidane insisted his ambition will be with respect to current France boss Deschamps and his preparations for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

"I want to [be head coach of France], of course. I will be, I hope, one day," Zidane said. "When? It's not up to me, but I want to come full circle with the France team. I knew this French team as a player, and it's the most beautiful thing that's ever happened to me.

"But really, this is the pinnacle. And so, as I experienced that and today I am a coach, the France team is firmly rooted in my head.

"When I say that I want to take the France team one day, I assume it. Today, a team is in place, with its goals. But if the opportunity comes next, then I'll be there.

"Again, it's not up to me. My deep desire is there. The France team is the most beautiful thing there is."

A move to take Antoine Griezmann to Athletic Bilbao is "impossible" according to Inaki Arechabaleta, the presidential candidate who has pledged to appoint Marcelo Bielsa if he wins the club's upcoming elections.

Griezmann came through the ranks at Athletic's local rivals Real Sociedad, meaning the 2018 World Cup winner is often spoken about as a potential target for the club, who remain committed to a policy of only recruiting players hailing from the Basque Country.

Having returned to Atletico Madrid on a two-year loan deal from Barcelona last August, Griezmann struggled to tie down a regular starting spot during an injury-hit season.

He made fewer appearances in all competitions (36) than fellow forwards Angel Correa (49), Luis Suarez (45) and Matheus Cunha (37).

The 31-year-old's frustrating campaign in the Spanish capital had fuelled speculation he could be targeted by Athletic, particularly as prospective boss Bielsa attempted to sign the forward during his first spell at the club between 2011 and 2013.

But Arechabaleta says the France star's significant wages make such a move implausible at this stage.

"With Marcelo we have talked about the possibilities of signing players for Athletic and, therefore, we will be attentive to the possibilities we have to strengthen our squad," he told Spanish podcast El Partidazo de Cope.

On a potential move for Griezmann, he said: "He could be [a target] because it's part of the club's philosophy, but I think it's absolutely impossible.

"The problem is not whether Griezmann enters our philosophy. Griezmann is unattainable at the moment for salary and what you have to pay for him."

Meanwhile, Arechabaleta revealed he has been in contract with managerial target Bielsa since the immediate aftermath of his Leeds United dismissal in late February, as he prepares for the elections on June 24. 

"Marcelo is a great professional, one of the best in the world and is an asset, who joins a lot of assets that we have presented these days," he added.

"I had one of the first contacts in the month of March. The first thing he told me is that he really likes the Basque Country and Athletic, but that we should let him analyse the Spanish league and the current Athletic.

"He is a very up-to-date football genius."

Zizou Bergs earned a wildcard for Wimbledon and a grand slam main draw debut by beating Jack Sock in the Ilkley Trophy final on Sunday.

Named after Zinedine Zidane – the France, Juventus and Real Madrid football great who goes by the nickname 'Zizou' – Belgian Bergs has established his sporting career in tennis.

Bergs, 23, is ranked a lowly 207th by the ATP and had to come through qualifying to play in the Ilkley event, a Challenger Tour tournament in Yorkshire.

Former world number eight Sock stood in his way in the final, but Bergs secured a 7-6 (9-7) 2-6 7-6 (8-6) victory over the American.

His father Koen Bergs wrote on Twitter: "Yesssssss. The tournament director announced during the ceremony the official reward of the WC for @Wimbledon main draw. History is made."

His triumphant son added on Instagram: "WIMBLEDON MAIN DRAW WILDCARD!! Whuuuutttt"

Bergs completes the list of men's singles wildcards, featuring alongside five British players plus Dutchman Tim van Rijthoven and Swiss three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka.

Wimbledon begins on June 27 at the All England Club in south-west London.

Zinedine Zidane says he still has the "flame" to continue his managerial career, despite a year out of the game after his departure from Real Madrid last year.

The Frenchman departed Santiago Bernabeu for a second time at the end of the 2020-21 season, having guided the club to a hat-trick of Champions League triumphs during his first term in charge and won 11 trophies in all during his time there.

Zidane has since been linked with a number of jobs, including in his home country where he was touted as the frontrunner to succeed Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain, as well as Didier Deschamps' possible successor as France head coach beyond Qatar 2022.

With Nice boss Christoph Galtier now in the driving seat to take the reins at Parc des Princes, Zidane's time in the wilderness looks set to continue.

But the former World Cup winner, who turns 50 this month, hopes to return to the dugout, while admitting he remains satisfied without having to leap straight into any job that becomes available.

"I want to continue," he told Telefoot. "I still have this flame. Football is my passion.

"But I am [almost] 50 years old and fulfilled. I am happy, and that's the most important thing."

 

Zidane also addressed his infamous World Cup final headbutt on Marco Materazzi at Germany 2006, which saw him sent off for France as they went on to lose to Italy on penalties.

"I'm not proud of what I've done, but it's part of my journey," he reflected. "Even in a person's life, not everything is done perfectly."

Kylian Mbappe considered retiring from France duty after being criticised for his displays at Euro 2020, according to French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet.

The 23-year-old failed to score in any of his four outings in last year's competition, with France surprisingly being eliminated by Switzerland in the last 16.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe missed the decisive spot-kick as the reigning world champions suffered a shock defeat on penalties following a 3-3 draw after extra time.

Mbappe was subjected to much of the criticism at the time, and FFF chief Le Graet has revealed just how much that affected the former Monaco star.

"I met with him after the Euros. He felt that the Federation had not defended him after his missed penalty and the criticism he faced," Le Graet told Le Journal du Dimanche.

"We met for five minutes in my office. He was angry, he didn't want to play for the French team any more – which he obviously didn't mean.

"You know how it is; he's a winner, he was very frustrated, like all of us, by the elimination. He's so media-friendly. He's a great guy, much more collective than people think."

 

Mbappe has gone on to play a further nine times for France since last year's disappointing Euro 2020 showing, helping his country to qualify for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

He has scored 27 goals in 57 senior caps, placing him 11th on Les Blues' all-time record goalscorers, a list topped by Thierry Henry (51 goals).

Defending 100m World Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continued her spectacular start to the 2022 season with a dominant win at Saturday’s Paris Diamond League.

Fraser-Pryce ran her second sub 10.7 clocking this season, equalling her own world-leading 10.67 for victory ahead of Great Britain’s Daryll Neita (10.99) and Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou (11.01).

The eight-time Olympic and nine-time World Championship medallist previously ran 10.67 at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi, Kenya on May 7.

Bahamian Olympic 400m Champions Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo both also showed good form to secure 400m victories.

Gardiner, who is also the defending World Champion, produced a typically easy display of running to win in a season’s best 44.21, ahead of the Dominican Republic’s Lidio Andres Feliz (44.92) and South Africa’s Zakhiti Nene (44.99).

Miller-Uibo, on the other hand, went out extremely hard in the first three quarters of her race before shutting down with about 50 metres to go, to win in 50.10 ahead of Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek (50.24) and Anna Kielbasinska (50.28).

Bahamian Devynne Charlton ran a season’s best 12.63 to finish second in the 100m hurdles behind Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan who did a personal best and African record 12.41 for victory. Great Britain’s Cindy Sember ran 12.73 for third.

Cuba’s Jordan Diaz Fortun (17.66m) and Andy Diaz (17.65) were the top two finishers in the triple jump ahead of Olympic Champion Pedro Pichardo of Portugal (17.49m).

 

Zinedine Zidane has always been a man focused on Real Madrid and France and therefore would not take the Paris Saint-Germain role should it become available.

That is the message from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who briefly discussed the potential vacancy at PSG should reports prove to be true that Mauricio Pochettino will depart.

Pochettino lifted the Ligue 1 title with PSG in the 2021-22 season, his first trophy as a coach, but failed to deliver in the Champions League, falling to a last-16 exit against Madrid.

European glory remains the main goal for PSG's QSI ownership, with the understanding that Pochettino and the Ligue 1 giants have held discussions and agreed to part ways.

Zidane emerged as a frontrunner for the PSG job before Pochettino was appointed, but the preference of the 49-year-old remains to be seen.

Many believe Zidane is eyeing the France job should Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus role become available after the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Zidane managed Madrid for two spells between 2016 and 2021, winning 11 trophies with Los Blancos – the second most successful manager in the club's history.

The Les Bleus great has also lifted PSG's much-desired Champions League crown on three occasions as a coach, with three consecutive successes in Europe's premier club competition between 2016 and 2018.

But Perez, speaking to the El Chiringuito programme in Spain, finds it hard to envisage PSG securing the services of Zidane.

 

"Zidane at Paris Saint-Germain? I don't know, but he's always been a man for Real Madrid and the French national team," Perez said. 

"That's what I know about him. But maybe he's now in a different situation."

Christophe Galtier, Julen Lopetegui and Marcelo Gallardo are also said to be among the favourites if Pochettino expectedly departs.

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde will undergo surgery for a hamstring injury on Tuesday, having been withdrawn at half-time of France’s 1-0 Nations League defeat to Croatia. 

The 23-year-old is a rumoured transfer target for Premier League heavyweights Chelsea, who were unable to complete a move 12 months ago but have revived their interest ahead of this window – though the injury may put a dent in the Blues' plans.

Kounde’s injury was something the team were aware of prior to the game, France boss Didier Deschamps confirmed, though the extent of his problem was not detailed after the match. 

"I knew very well his physical condition today. Tomorrow [Tuesday] he will have a [surgical] intervention because he has a problem that has been going on for several months," Deschamps said.

Capped 11 times by France, Kounde has established himself among the highest-rated young defenders in world football and shot to prominence during Sevilla's Europa League success in 2019-20. 

Utilised mainly as a central defender by his club side, Kounde's versatility has seen him feature regularly down the right for France. 

Les Bleus' defeat to Croatia in the Nations League capped off a woeful sequence for the defending champions, who sit rock bottom of group A1 without a win in their opening four matches – putting them at significant risk of relegation.

Didier Deschamps has told his France players to "clear their heads" after Les Bleus' dreadful Nations League title defence was ended by Croatia.

Luka Modric's fifth-minute penalty at the Stade de France earned Zlatko Dalic's side a 1-0 win on Monday, with Croatia gaining a measure of revenge for their 2018 World Cup final defeat.

The loss means France can no longer finish top of Group A1, and as such prevents them from qualifying for the Nations League finals and retaining their crown.

France are not in action again now until September, when their objective will be avoiding a humiliating relegation from the Nations League's top tier.

They certainly have work to do on that front as they sit bottom of the group after four games, having only mustered two draws and a couple of defeats this month.

Deschamps seemed to blame fatigue for France's struggles but also accepted the players of most other teams will have been in a comparable condition physically.

Speaking to TF1 at full-time, Deschamps said: "This month of June was very difficult in terms of results.

"We didn't have enough energy and strength against teams that had more than us. We weren't successful either. It was above all the freshness that was not there.

"There are always lessons to be learned with these results. Each match is rich in lessons.

"The succession of matches was very hard, we lost players from one match to another. No doubt that others nations were affected [by fatigue].

"[The players] will have to clear their heads and go back to their club and start again for this new season."

The defeat represented the first match since November 2020 in which France failed to score (23 games).

France can no longer successfully defend their Nations League crown after Monday's 1-0 home defeat to Croatia left the finals beyond their reach.

Didier Deschamps' side had flattered to deceive in their first three matches this month, losing once and drawing the other two, and they were no better against a stubborn Croatia at the Stade de France.

They proved to be their own worst enemy with a needless early penalty concession that Luka Modric took full advantage of five minutes in.

The hosts' performance was full of bluster but lacked subtlety, with clear-cut chances difficult to come by on another disappointing day for the reigning world champions.

Ibrahima Konate was the guilty party for the penalty as the Liverpool defender clumsily tripped Ante Budimir and, after a long VAR review, Modric just about squeezed his kick past Mike Maignan.

The game became frantic as Les Bleus desperately searched for a leveller, but Ivica Ivusic was not forced into a meaningful save until early in the second half when substitute Aurelien Tchouameni shot straight at the goalkeeper.

It was a sign of renewed purpose, however, and Kylian Mbappe saw a 30-yard strike go agonisingly wide a few moments later.

Yet, Croatia ended up creating the better chances in the closing stages, with Lovro Majer and Nikola Vlasic forcing saves from Maignan as the visitors gained a measure of revenge for their 2018 World Cup final loss.

Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe has asked the club to explain its "project" and what his role will be in it ahead of contract negotiations.

The 26-year-old started has become a central figure in PSG's first team, making 41 appearances across all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign.

However, it has been suggested that the French giants are in the market for a new centre-back, with Inter's Milan Skriniar rumoured to be on their radar.

In turn, Premier League side Chelsea – managed by former PSG boss Thomas Tuchel – are said to have expressed an interest in acquiring Kimpembe if they are unable to sign his France team-mate Jules Kounde from Sevilla.

Earlier this month, Kimpembe cast doubt on his future when saying it was a "key moment" in his career, with only two years left on his contract.

Some perceived it to be a hint that he was potentially angling for a move, and while he did look to clarify his comments on Sunday, Kimpembe reiterated the importance of knowing PSG's vision for him.

Speaking ahead of France's Nations League clash with Croatia on Monday, Kimpembe said: "I told PSG that I'm almost 27 years old, that my next contract will be decisive and that I wanted to know what the club's project was.

"I didn't say anything bad. I arrived at the club when I was 9-10 years old. I think it makes sense to ask what the future project is and what role I'll be given within it.

"But, at the moment, I'm focused on the French team and [Monday's] match to finish this season well."

 

N'Golo Kante and Lucas Hernandez have dropped out of the France squad ahead of Monday's Nations League showdown with Croatia.

France head into next week's match sitting bottom of Group A1 after following up a shock 2-1 home loss against Denmark with draws away to Croatia and Austria.

The reigning Nations League champions are four points behind leaders Denmark and two adrift of Austria and Croatia with three games remaining and only one team advancing.

Les Blues will be without central midfielder Kante and versatile defender Hernandez for the visit of Croatia at the Stade de France.

Kante misses out due to a knee injury, while Hernandez has been given permission to join his partner, who is due to give birth.

Neither player played any part in Friday's 1-1 draw against Austria, with Kylian Mbappe cancelling out Andreas Weimann's first-half opener in Vienna to salvage a late point.

Luis Enrique cited the struggles of France in the Nations League as debates continue as to the strength of Spain's World Cup credentials.

Spain play their final Nations League fixture of this window on Sunday, at home to Czech Republic, having picked up just five points from three games.

A pair of draws with Portugal and Czech Republic preceded a narrow 1-0 victory over strugglers Switzerland.

Luis Enrique defended his team selection and knowledge of football after the latter win, and the Spain coach again went on the front foot when asked about what La Roja's Nations League term meant for Qatar 2022.

"It's not about what I understand or don't understand. It's about looking at things with perspective. Nobody is interested in the other results of Group A," he told reporters. 

"If someone expects us to win every game then they do not know what modern football is.

"Look at the struggles of France, champion of the world and Nations League – we are not different. But we are a great team that can beat any rival, that's for sure."

As for who is the favourite for the World Cup, Luis Enrique finds it hard to look past two South American giants.

"I see Argentina above the rest and Brazil too, well above the rest," he added.

Alvaro Morata also came in for special praise from Luis Enrique, who believes the striker is the best defensive forward on the continent.

"All wingers can play as a nine. The strikers that I have brought not all of them can play as a winger," he continued.

"Morata can. I am not going to compare players but on a defensive level, no one beats Morata in Europe. He has an intelligence when it comes to pressing and physical conditions beyond any doubt.

"Then on top of that with the ball he has been very good, he has given us superiority. We want those who participate to know that they have an offensive side and another clear defensive one.

"With us if they don't do the defensive work, we can't be compact."

Didier Deschamps has backed Antoine Griezmann and N'Golo Kante to be at their best by the time the World Cup arrives, heading into Friday's Nations League clash with Austria.

After a disappointing spell at Barcelona, Griezmann's transfer back to Atletico Madrid did not translate into an immediate return to form, while experiencing fitness concerns for the first time.

In a career that has seen him mostly without injury, missing two games in 2019-20 with Barcelona, the 31-year-old missed 15 games with Atleti due to a combination of muscle injuries and Covid-19 enforced isolation.

With that in mind, though, Deschamps believes the talismanic attacker for Les Bleus will be back to his best.

"I know him well," Deschamps said. "He has often benefited more from playing for Les Bleus. It's not his best period.

"A part of it is physical, and a part of it mental. He suffered his first injury this season. I'm not saying he's worn out. I know his qualities and his mind too. He does not baulk.

"This is not his best period, but it does not mean that I question what he is capable of doing. I know very well what he can bring to the collective."

Along with Kylian Mbappe and Adrien Rabiot, also missing in Monday's draw to Croatia, Kante will miss Friday's game in Vienna due to lingering injury concerns.

The 31-year has sat extensive periods on the sidelines at club level over the past three seasons, with continual hamstring problems denying him from a consistent run of minutes at Chelsea.

After missing almost two months of football this past season, Deschamps concedes that Kante's fitness needs to be managed, but will hope to count on him.

"When he is at full capacity, any coach wants to see him in his team," the Les Bleus boss said. "In relation to the deadlines that are ours, let's make sure that he is in full possession of his means.

"Many players have accumulated seasons of 60 games. At some point, organisations suffer a little more. His coach at Chelsea [Thomas Tuchel] would like to have him a little more. You have to manage it. Him there, me here."

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