REAL MADRID

The day Florentino Peréz made one last-gasp effort to keep Zidane at Real Madrid in 2006

In the dressing room after Zidane's final game, the Real Madrid president tried to take advantage of a Robinho joke in a bid to stop the Frenchman from retiring.

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The day Florentino Peréz made one last-gasp effort to keep Zidane at Real Madrid in 2006
PHILIPPE DESMAZES AFP

On May 7, 2006, Zinedine Zidane could not hold back the tears as he waved goodbye to the fans at the Bernabéu after his final game for Real Madrid, a 3-3 draw with Villarreal.

The former France international, who was 34 at the time, decided against seeing out the final year of his contract at the club, instead favouring to hang up his boots after the World Cup in Germany that summer, where his illustrious career came to a tragic end when he was sent off in the final for headbutting Italian midfielder Marco Materazzi in the chest.

But on that final day of the season against Villarreal, Madrid president Florentino Peréz was willing to make one last-gasp effort to try to convince Zidane to reconsider his decision, practically pulling out a blank check book in an amusing incident that took place in the dressing room after the game and has been recounted by former Blanco right back, Cicinho.

Zidane’s last day in the Real Madrid dressing room

“In his farewell match, Zidane was very emotional. We were also as he was a legend who was leaving the game. Then, Florentino Peréz came into the dressing room and greeted the players one by one. What happened next was unforgettable,” recalled the Brazilian former defender in an interview with ESPN.

Zidane "was like a conductor of an orchestra", recalled Cicinho.

“Real Madrid's highest salary at the time was €6.5 million. Robinho jokingly said: ‘Mr. President, Zizou said that if you sign a two-year contract for €6.5 million, he won’t stop playing.' Everyone laughed, but Florentino was serious and replied: ‘If you want, I will bring you the paper now so that you can sign it.'"

Suddenly all eyes in the dressing room were on the French superstar. “Zidane thought about it for a moment, looked at him and said: ‘No, no… I don’t want anymore,” added Cicinho.

Cicinho: “It was beautiful to watch Zidane play”

Arriving from Sao Paolo for 5.8 million in 2005, Cicinho spent two seasons at Madrid and shared the dressing room with Zidane for one season before the latter’s departure in May, 2006.

“Zidane was like the conductor of an orchestra. He always helped us position ourselves on the field. Before games, he guided everyone. He was already a coach on the pitch,” he said of his experience of playing with the Frenchman.

“Florentino always said that Zidane played with a suit, such was his elegance on the field. He didn’t even break a sweat! It was beautiful to watch him play.”