El Clasico rivals on the pitch and touchline, any animosity dissolved into sheer respect when Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane sat down together.
France legend Zidane hasn’t worked in football since leaving his post as Madrid coach for a second time in 2021, while Messi has stepped away from elite level football with a move to MLS, meaning it’s unlikely the pair will face off again.
That meant two greats of the game could sit down together, courtesy of adidas, and discuss careers that saw them both win World Cup finals for their countries.
Zidane was asked to describe Messi in just a few words, and showed no Madrid bias at all when praising his former rival.
“No, it’s only one word: magic,” he said. “Me and Leo are not together every day so today is a very important day for me because I can tell him how much I admire him.
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“And all the people who like football, and all these players who are different, I think he’s magic, magic in the sense that before receiving the ball, he already knew what needed to be done.
“Especially for me, as someone who understands football, watching you on the field, I almost knew what you were going to do, you know? It was like a connection.
“When I see him doing what he does, I say ‘that’s it’. That’s what people want to see in football, there are only a few of them. There are a few, but not like him. Only a few… Well one.”
Messi was similarly full of praise for a man who inflicted plenty of pain on Barca as both a player and manager.
“I’m not saying this because he is here, I’ve said it several times before,” Messi began.
“I think he is one of the greatest players in history. I’ve always admired and liked him a lot. I followed him a lot in Madrid and he made me suffer because I was from Barcelona.
“I remember those times in Madrid, the ‘Galacticos’ the Euros you won. He’s always been a different player. Elegant, artistic, magic, he had it all.
“I have a lot of memories of him, I remember the goal against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League final, the goal he scored with his left leg, the goals he scored at the World Cup, the typical ‘roulette move’.
“There’s a play in Valencia where you end up finishing with your left, these are the things that those of us who love football enjoyed, I enjoyed it a lot even though it was difficult for me as a Barcelona fan.”
At the end of a heartwarming and insightful chat, the two then presented each other with gifts, and Zidane may have answered the famous question of ‘what do you give the man who has everything?’
The 1998 World Cup winning French megastar gifted Messi with his last-ever international shirt from 2006, and the Argentine was clearly overawed as he gave Zidane his 2022 Argentina shirt in exchange.
“What a shirt!” Messi said as his eyes lit up like a child. “Awesome shirt.
“That shirt was really nice, adidas did a great job there!”