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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Zidane's ultimate goal
Zinedine Zidane scores for Real Madrid against Bayer Leverkusen

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Every which way you look at it, Zinedine Zidane's European Cup-winning goal was a thing of wonder, a "**** me!" moment for the millions watching.

Gobs were smacked, flabbers gasted.

What was your first thought when it flew in? Astonishment, probably, swiftly followed by a burst of swearing and a round of shocked applause.

To score a goal like that in training would be enough. To do it in the Champions League final, in your club's centenary year, at the scene of their greatest European triumph - it's almost too much.

Within the narrower confines of the game itself, the timing could not have been better. Leverkusen, having drawn level, were beginning to boss it.

The instant Zidane's shot rocketed into the net, the self-belief began to drain from Klaus Toppmoller's side.

Even if you consider the circumstances in which he scored nothing more than window-dressing - a harsh opinion, but one you are entitled to - the basic technical excellence of the strike is almost unparalleled in modern football.

To hit across a dropping ball and make a connection so clean that you can redirect it with precision and power inside the junction of post and crossbar 25 yards away is nothing short of staggering.

We've all had a pop at volleys in the park or weekend league football. You're generally pleased to catch it cleanly even if the ball is looping gently into your stride.

To readjust your feet, lift the hips, swing your foot with control and meet a ball plummeting from 30 feet perfectly requires skill beyond the reach of most footballers.

Maybe Marco van Basten's volley in the European Championship final of 1988 stands up to comparison. Even then, if you really wanted to nit-pick, the cross was coming in at an easier height and trajectory.

Paulo di Canio's scissor-kick for West Ham against Wimbledon? Wonderful goal, wonderful technique, but still not quite as sublime.

It's easy to take Zidane's genius for granted. This is a man who has scored two goals in a World Cup final, been named world footballer of the year and won the full set of major trophies.

Should we be so amazed that he could score such a goal?

Yes. Look at the performance of the man he succeeded as the world's most expensive player, Luis Figo.

Figo is a footballer as hyped and high-profile as Zidane, yet one who produced nothing of note in the 60 minutes he was given at Hampden Park.

Expect him to put some of that right at the World Cup next month. But also expect more of the same from Zidane.

We've probably all seen his goal a dozen times by now, from four different angles and in crystal-clear slow motion.

After a while you begin to take it for granted. It looks so simple when repeated time and time again that the initial wonder at the execution begins to fade.

Had this been a goal from the distant past, scored by a man in flappy shorts and seen it in grainy black and white, there wouldn't be much doubt that it was the greatest ever.

Because we saw Zidane's in colour, because it is so fresh in the memory, it's difficult to think of it in the same way.

History lends a gravitas to sporting moments from the past. We have had it passed down to us that we should marvel at Pele's first in the 1958 World Cup final, and we accept the class of Carlos Alberto's exuberant rasper that capped Brazil's triumph in 1970.

But were either of them any better than the pearl a balding Frenchman produced on a rainy night in Glasgow?

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