Zidane takes on 1st major challenge as Madrid coach
MADRID (AP) Zinedine Zidane faces his greatest challenge in a glittering and scandal-hit career after taking over the notoriously unstable helm of Real Madrid on Monday for his first major coaching job.
On the field, the former France great was one of Madrid's `Galacticos' - the band of glamorous superstars which included David Beckham - and helped to lead the Spanish soccer giant to European and domestic success.
Off the field, Zidane now hopes to do the same as head coach after replacing Rafa Benitez as the 11th coach in 12 years under Real Madrid president Florentino Perez. The Spaniard was fired for failing to end a crisis of confidence at Madrid that started with an unforgivable 4-0 loss to Barcelona in November.
The 43-year-old Zidane was previously in charge of Madrid's ''B'' team, currently second in the third division.
Here are the highs and lows of Zidane's career so far:
HEAD-BUTTING: Zidane's career was marked by incredible skills on the field, with the ball seemingly glued to his feet, but also for the head-butting of Italy defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final, which was his last international game and shocked world soccer.
Zidane head-butted Materazzi in the chest in extra time and earned an instant red card. Zidane's explosion was supposedly prompted by Materazzi's insults toward his sister. It was not the first time Zidane had been penalized for violent behavior on the field, but it was by far the most high profile and dramatic.
Stunned fans watched Zidane walk off the pitch past the World Cup trophy, his international career ending in the most dramatic way possible. France went on to lose the final on penalties.
MADRID TRADITION: Zidane played five seasons with Madrid, helping the club win the 2002 Champions League and the 2003 Spanish league, among other titles. He scored a remarkable volley to lead Madrid to the European title in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen.
''Without a doubt Zidane is one of the greatest figures in the history of football,'' Perez said.
GLORY AT HOME: Zidane led France to its maiden World Cup title in 1998 by scoring two first-half headers in a 3-0 win over Brazil at the Stade de France.
It was the first of three World Cup tournaments for Zidane, who also led France to the title at the 2000 European Championship.
BEST IN THE WORLD: Zidane won FIFA's World Player of the Year award three times. The first prize came after the World Cup in 1998, the second in 2000 while playing for Juventus and the last one in 2003, when he was already thriving at Real Madrid.
PLAYING CAREER: Zidane began playing in France with Cannes and then Bordeaux before transferring to Juventus in 1996. He spent five years with the Italian club before attracting the attention of Madrid, where he played until retiring after the 2006 World Cup.
AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.