Zinedine Zidane has been hailed as the greatest European player of all time, and anyone who witnessed his performance against England might agree.  But is it right to label him a 'great'?  And what of his team-mates at Real Madrid?


Zinedine Zidane has been rated the greatest European footballer of all time, according to a poll to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UEFA, the governing body of football in Europe.  According to this poll, Zidane is considered greater than the likes of Beckenbauer, Di Stefano and Charlton, not to mention the irrepressible Johann Cruyff and the deadly little Magyar, Ferenc Puskas.  The Real Madrid midfielder proved he is one of the best (if not the best) player in the game today with those two late strikes against England last Sunday.  Who else on the French team would have been able to remain as calm and composed as Zizou did?  Who else never gave up hope that Les Bleus would pull something V - maybe a draw V out of the bag?  Certainly not Zidane.  And a victory must have been beyond his wildest expectations, especially in such a manner.


Zidane, of Algerian descent, has been one of the outstanding players of the past decade for sure.  In recent years, he has played his club football for the Spanish giants Real Madrid, having signed from Juventus.  Madrid is home to the most expensive and arguably the most talented squad of footballers ever assembled.  Playing alongside Zidane this season has been the Brazilians, Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo (FIFA World Player of the Year), English glamour boy and tireless midfielder David Beckham, Portuguese winger Luis Figo and Spanish superstar, Raul.  Together, they have been baptised as "Los Galaticos" - stars from another world.  It would seem to be a dream of any manager to have such talent oozing from your squad.  But for Real, it does not seem to be working.  For a start, the club's policy of playing these famous faces has resulted in a disjointed transfer policy.  With such an outlay for these players, quality players (Claude Makelele and Fernando Morientes spring to mind) have been shipped out to make capital available for the select few Galaticos.  In their place has come players from the Madrid youth system.  These players - known as "The Pavons," after one such player - are solid, reliable footballers, but are not up to the quality of those they have replaced. This has led to enormous pressure being placed on the likes of Zidane, Beckham, Figo and Raul to carry a team who were expected to win everything this season, but they didn't win a thing.


Based on early Euro 2004 performances it seems that the European pillars of the Real Madrid policy are struggling for form, all except Zidane.  Only the Frenchman has lifted himself to a higher level, showing himself to be the great player experts believe him to be.  While he has been destroying English hearts, Beckham has been ineffectual, Figo has looked tired and disinterested and Raul just looks out of it.  A truly great player is one who can rise to the occasion, whatever the occasion (although the bigger the event the better).  To call the Frenchman "Great" may be a little premature. 


Greatness cannot just be given out.  It would take 15+ years after he retires for his true greatness to be measured and his contribution to the French and Madrid causes can be recognised for its real worth.  His legacy cannot be measured until then.  But, on the back of the performance against England, and judging by how the other Galaticos are playing, Zidane is the only potential great player today.